English Novel x
Allene Gregory. Ph.D.
G. P. Putnam 's Sons
New York and London
Cbe Iknicherbochcr pres
Ube fmfcfeerbocher press, flew Jgorft
r ~PHIS study in the tendenz novel was begun
* with the idea of paralleling Dr. Hancock's
book, The French Revolution and the English Poets, I
in furnishing detailed consideration of a literary
form which Professor Dowden's general treatment
of the period necessarily presents in outline merely. 2
It is evident, however, that the Revolutionary
poets and the Revolutionary novelists must rest
their claims to our interest on different grounds.
A discussion of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron,
and Shelley needs no justification. But it must
be confessed that the novelists we are about to
consider can not escape the condemnation of
mediocrity. There is scarcely one of them whose
work has lived through the intervening century.
What, then, shall be our apology for invading
their well-merited obscurity?
There are two distinct uses of the historical
methods in the study of literature. The first,
admirably exemplified in Dr. Hancock's book,
resorts to a study of the age and its antecedents
1 Albert Elmer Hancock, The French Revolution and the English
Poets, Henry Holt and Company, New York, 1899.
1 Edward Dowden, The French Revolution and English Litera-
ture, New York, 1897.
for the purpose of gaining a truer appreciation of
the work of authors whose greatness unquestion-
ably warrants such effort. But there is a second
use of the historical method with a somewhat
different end in view. Some special phase of
literature may be studied as a means of gaining
insight into the intellectual and (in a broad sense)
spiritual life of a historical period.
Considered with the second purpose in mind,
there was perhaps no literary form in Revolu-
tionary England so significant as these same ob-
scure novels. The poets of the time were for the
most part only temporarily in sympathy with the
Revolution. They were carried away by the tide
of popular enthusiasm, rather than expressing
their own mature convictions. The drama, in
some respects the most social of literary forms,
was perhaps the least adapted to express so com-
plex and reflective a philosophy. Moreover,
censorship, official and popular, during the reac-
tion served to eliminate from the drama the later
developments of Revolutionism.
All this might seem to indicate that the proper
field for a study of political philosophy is in the
distinctively doctrinary and propaganda writings
of the time rather than in any form of imaginative
literature. But Revolutionism was more than
an academic philosophy. It was a social religion,
in the sense that it was to many men their "serious
reaction to life as a whole."
Perhaps every faith by which men have lived
is better than it seems from a mere analytical
statement of its doctrines. Such formulations
have often much the same relation to reality that
an architect's plans and specifications have to
the house they represent. The plans afford a
general view and valuable information as to the
soundness of construction; one would certainly
wish to see them before making the house one's
own. But the architect's plans do not tell the
whole story. Those who have lived in the house
may know that certain rooms that appear dark
and ill ventilated are really little used; that tor-
tuous passages have been made easy by custom;
and that the main rooms afford scope for a life of
dignity and service.
The real value of the novels we are about to
consider lies not in their intrinsic merit, but in
the illustrations they offer of the practise of Re-
volutionary ethics, as conceived by its sympathiz-
ers and its opponents. They are a frank give-
and-take criticism disguised as fiction; and in the
course of them many values are made plain which
the metaphysical treatises somewhat obscured.
After reading Political Justice one wonders how
any man whose sense of fact was not entirely
atrophied could have taken Revolutionism seri-
ously. In the novels one sees how sensible and
kindly men like Holcroft and Bage made of it an
eminently livable philosophy..
I wish to express here my gratitude to Professor
Chester N. Greenough of Harvard University,
under whose scholarly guidance it was my good
fortune to pursue this subject in post graduate
study, and who at every stage of the work has
given me most generous assistance. My thanks
are due also to Professor William Allan Neilson
and Professor Irving Babbitt, to whose kindness
I am indebted for much valuable suggestion and
INTRODUCTION ON THE ECONOMIC INTERPRE-
TATION OF LITERATURE i
BACKGROUNDS . . . . . .15
Section i. Background of Events . . 15
Section 2. The Background of Ideas . 30
A REPRESENTATIVE REVOLUTIONIST . -49
Thomas Holcroft ..... 49
REVOLUTIONARY PHILOSOPHERS ... 86
Section i . William Godwin ... 86
Section 2. The Young Shelley . .120
SOME OPPONENTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY
PHILOSOPHERS . . . . . .134
REVOLUTIONISTS AND RADICALS OF VARIOUS
DEGREES ....... 161
Section i. The Novels of Robert Bage . 161
Section 2. Novels Representing Miscel-
laneous Novelists . . . .180
SOME TYPICAL LADY NOVELISTS OF THE
Section i. Mrs. Elizabeth Inchbald . 191
Section 2. Mrs. Amelia Alderson Opie . 203
Section 3. Mrs. Charlotte Smith . . 213
Section 4. Some Other Lady Novelists . 222
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND THE RIGHTS OF
WOMAN ....... 231
Section i. Introduction and Background 231
Section 2. Mary Wollstonecraft . . 239
Section 3 . Some other ' ' Rights of Women ' '
Novels ...... 259
SOME OTHER FORMS OF LITERATURE AFFECTED
BY THE FRENCH REVOLUTION . . .270
Section i . The Poets . . . .270
Section 2. The Drama . . . .283
CONCLUSIONS ...... 293
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER VIII, SECTION 2 . 309
Lists of Plays Showing Tendencies Influ-
enced by the French Revolution . . 309
BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . .321
The French Revolution and
the English Novel
ON THE ECONOMIC INTERPRETATION OF
PREFACED to Dr. Hancock's discussion of The
1 French Revolution and the English Poets there
is a very suggestive "Note" by Professor Gates
urging the extension of the historical method in
criticism. Under this term he includes not merely
an observation of the continuous development of
literary forms from age to age, but also a study of
the historical events in any given period as an
aid to the appreciation of its literature. This
conception of the relation of historical fact to
literary form and content is so sound that it will
bear a fuller development.
Our own time has seen a remarkable change of
emphasis in the writing and teaching of history.
The lists of battles, treaties, coronations, and
other epoch marking events which formerly con-
2 The French Revolution
stituted the historian's stock in trade are now rele-
gated to the background as secondary causes.
The modern basis for the study of a historical
period is its economic and social conditions.
According to this depersonalized method even
the Great Man theory of progress, beloved of
literary historians for its dramatic value, has been
consigned to oblivion as unscientific. Carlyle
has been vanquished by Dry-as-dust.
When we have fairly made up our minds, how-
ever, to accept the Dismal Science in lieu of Hero
Worship, our sacrifice to intellectual honesty is
more than rewarded. The Dismal Science is
not unlike that Loathly Ladie whom Gawain
submitted to wed and found a princess in disguise.
The sociological and economic method proves a
revealer of new values and unguessed relation-
ships whereby both the complexity and the signi-
ficance of human events are enormously enhanced.
If history has been so incalculably the gainer
through the adoption of this method, the question
naturally occurs whether literature may not share
in the results of this new accession of fact? One
would fancy this suggestion a matter of course,
requiring no comment or justification, but for the
fact that it is so seldom acted upon except in the
most superficial manner.
It may be objected that all this is included in
the accepted historical interpretation of literature.
That is not altogether true. Economic changes
and the resulting social conditions do undoubtedly
And the English Novel 3
affect literature through the medium of the general
events which they cause. But they also affect
literature in a more direct way, without the inter-
vention of those political occurrences which deter-
mine the chronology of historical epochs.
Indeed, this chronological vagueness forms one
of the chief difficulties in the economic interpre-
tation of literature. Industrial developments and
the shifting of the balance of power from one eco-
nomic class to another take place so gradually as
a rule that the fixing of dates becomes a matter,
not of "when" but of "how much." This pre-
vents the obvious coincidences of dates that are
so satisfying and convincing to an order-loving
mind, and makes the whole matter of determining
the limits of periods distressingly uncertain. All
this is very salutary, however. The student of
literature can never be too fully aware that he is
dealing with infinitely complex reality. Chrono-
logical generalizations made in a pigeon-holing
spirit are valueless. They are merely matters of
convenience, like the imaginary figures one traces
among the stars to aid in distinguishing constella-
tions. If they are made a fetish and allowed to
destroy the sense of continuity they may become
If one accepts the economic factor as a basis for
generalization tempered by discretion, however,
certain periodic coincidences become apparent.
An examination of almost any one of the generally
recognized movements in literature will show that
4 The French Revolution
it was immediately preceded by some economic
or industrial change of a significant nature, involv-
ing a change in the relative power of the economic
groups in the state.
For example, in the fourteenth century the
general aristocratic and ecclesiastical tone of
literature was broken by a curious little strain of
pure democracy. This finds expression in the
writings of Langland (especially the Vision of
Piers Plowman, 1376-1393), and in the records of
Wycliffe and his "pore prestes," whose chief
contributions to the time were a Bible translation
and some very well-organized trades-unions. The
historical interpretation of literature contents
itself with pointing to the Great Plague (1348),
the consequent wage legislation, the preaching of
John Ball (1360-1380), and the rebellion under
Wat Tyler (1381) as the culminating event. The
economic interpreter insists on going back to the
common cause behind both events and ideas.
During the early part of the fourteenth century
there had been a steady rise of the yeoman class,
as the villeins were emancipated into a free ten-
antry. The lords of the manor, frequently in
want of cash, were gradually accepting a rent
paid in money for their ancient claims to service.
It was primarily an ill-advised attempt on the
part of the landlords to revive a rent paid in
labour that brought about the Peasants' Revolt.
The attempt to extort labour rents was the result
of the Great Plague and the consequent shortage
And the English Novel 5
of labour. But it is to be observed that the event
alone would have had little effect but for the
gradual class development that preceded it.
Here we have a situation not unlike that in
England at the time of the French Revolution:
a class is gradually gaining in power and import-
ance when some event occurs (the Plague in one
case, and the invention of the power loom in the
other), which precipitates a sharp clash of inter-
ests. There is a corresponding conflict of ideas,
and a sudden prominence given to revolutionary
concepts in literature. But in both cases it was
a minority report; a side current in literature,
and a political movement of revolt that proved
Again, the history of a social form of literature
like the drama offers excellent material for eco-
nomic discussion. The growth of the market
towns and the rise and fall of the Guilds have a
very direct bearing upon the development of the
miracle and morality plays. As the drama was
taken up by a wealthier class, and became the
concern of men of leisure and learning, it assumed
a different form altogether. The closing of the
theatres was brought about by a social crisis
directly traceable to economic changes. Restora-
tion Comedy and the heroic plays were class
drama; so were Sentimental Comedy and Domestic
Tragedy. The transition between them coincides
with a decided increase in the power of the mer-
chant and manufacturing classes at the expense of
6 The French Revolution
the land-owning aristocracy. This was funda-
mentally an economic change, although it found
expression in a political Revolution
All these observations are superficial and com-
monplace. But the method which they are in-
tended to suggest is not one of facile generalization,
but of careful study of the economic conditions
and the intellectual temper of a given period with
a view to ascertaining causal relationships.
It would be easy to reduce this method to ab-
surdity by pushing it too far. But no method of
literary interpretation is proof against a student
without discretion. It is easy to recognize in the
literature of any given period certain prevailing
ideas and ideals, in spite of individual variations.
It is also easy to perceive periodic changes in
economic conditions, resulting in changes in the
social structure. In order to establish a causal
relation it is not necessary to assume that
economic situation actually created the idea.
We may say that various ideas being present in
the national mind, the economic condition is a
prime factor in determining which ones shall be
emphasized. An age, like an individual, takes up
the problems it is ready for ; understands what it is
capable of understanding; and believes, in general,
what it finds to its own advantage to believe.
The interests of different economic classes are
not the same, however. Consequently there fre-
quently occur sharp conflicts of ideas, reflecting
the conflicting interests. It is the ethical and
And the English Novel 7
aesthetic standards of the dominant class that
prevail, as a rule.
Perhaps at this point it may be well to cite the
popular theory known as economic determinism.
This is our "economic interpretation" carried to
an extreme. We may quote an early and authori-
tative statement of this conception, by a political
and economic thinker the stimulating value of
whose writings is in no wise affected by their fre-
quent misinterpretation at the hands of over-
At a certain stage of their development, the material
forces of production in society come in conflict with
the existing relations in production, or what is but a
legal expression of the same thing with the property
relations within which they had been at work before.
From forms of development of the forces of produc-
tion these relations turn into their fetters. Then
comes the period of social revolution. With the
change of the economic foundation the entire immense
superstructure is more or less rapidly transformed.
In considering such transformations the distinction
should always be made between the material trans-
formation of the economic conditions of production
and distribution which can be determined with the
precision of a natural science, and the legal, political,
religious, aesthetic, and philosophic in short, the
ideological forms in which men become conscious of
the conflict and fight it out. Just as our opinion of an
individual is not based on what he thinks of himself,
so we cannot judge of such a period of transformation
8 The French Revolution
by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this con-
sciousness must rather be explained from the con-
tradictions of material life, from the existing forces
of production and the relations of production. No
social order ever disappears before all the productive
forces for which there are room in it have been de-
veloped ; and new higher relations of production never
appear before the material conditions of their exist-
ence have matured in the womb of the old society.
Therefore mankind always takes up only such prob-
lems as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more
closely, we find that the problem itself arises only
when the material conditions for its solution exist or
are at least in the process of formation. *
Protests against the economic interpretation of
literature are likely to come from two distinct
points of view. The Romantic critic will say
that all this is too materialistic; that it destroys
the aesthetic and imaginative and spiritual values
of literature. The humanist may object that it
tends to substitute an over-pragmatistic concep-
tion of the development of ideas for the abiding
human values ; that it makes for a sense of relativ-
ity so strong as to destroy certain fine intellectual
The latter, as the more serious objection, we
may consider first. If it can indeed be shown that
an economic interpretation tends to diminish the
1 Karl Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,
translated from the German by I N. Stone, pp. 12-13. Date of
publication of the original, 1859.
And the English Novel 9
humane dignity of literature, and place "Law for
thing" above "Law for man," 1 that objection
must be conclusive. Certainly that would be
true of any extreme or undiscriminating use of
the method. In the hands of the humanist him-
self, however, a full recognition of the economic
factor in the Zeitgeist may make for a clearer
perception of the values that are permanent.
After all, it requires an Aristotelian soundness of
judgment to profit by a pragmatistic sense of fact.
The Romantic protest may receive a less quali-
fied answer. Nothing that makes for a truer sense
of the complexity of life and at the same time has
a synthetic value can result otherwise than in an
enrichment of the imagination. The imaginative
and the spiritual values can be trusted to take
care of themselves, to a far greater extent than
their defenders are aware. Keats's dictum that
"Beauty is truth, truth beauty," is neither "all
we know on earth," nor "all we need to know."
But if the Romantic critic is convinced of that
(and from his fondness for the quotation one
might naturally suppose that he endorses it) , there
is no conceivable reason why he should so care-
fully guard his cherished conception of "beauty"
from the rude contact of facts and ideas. It is
really a rather suspicious circumstance when
beauty shrinks from honest analysis. This type
of protest tends to produce in the critic who is
1 Cf. the discussion of humanism in chapter i. of Literature and
the American College, by Professor Irving Babbitt.
io The French Revolution
interested in ideas rather than emotions a not
unnatural distrust of Romanticism. It is not
fair, however, to misjudge the Romantic ideal
because it is defended by Sentimentalists.
Often, however, the Romantic critic meets the
economic interpreter half-way. Like the humour-
ist who was so deeply interested in the Civil War
that he was willing to sacrifice all his wife's rela-
tives to preserve the Union, our defender of a
sacrosanct and incomprehensible beauty cheer-
fully admits that "tendenz" literature may be
interpreted in the light of economic conditions:
but hands off from true poetry! Now this is a
concession which we can in no wise accept. We
must have all or nothing; for if we cannot exercise
judgment and discrimination in applying the
criticism of fact in really important matters, we
had better let it alone altogether.
Moreover, this concession involves a fundamen-
tally false distinction. In the reaction from di-
dacticism and from reform propaganda disguised
as literature the very phrase "literature with a
purpose" has come to have a damnatory signifi-
cance. This has its foundation in a very right
feeling that the commonplaces of social and per-
sonal ethics and the questions of the day are not
problems worthy the consideration of universal
and abiding art. But in our time this half-truth
has been somewhat over-emphasized. When we
turn back to the literary criticism of ages artisti-
cally greater than our own, we find no such
And the English Novel n
undiscriminating horror of "purpose." Aristotle
was not afraid in his great doctrine of Catharsis
to assign to the highest of art forms a purpose
to purify the soul. Milton, Dryden, and Pope
were frankly didactic. Even Shakespeare, al-
though the profoundness of his moral perception
did not admit of expression in convenient aphor-
isms, was by no means so purposeless as the advo-
cates of "art for art's sake " would have us believe.
The reconciliation of this apparent contradiction
lies, of course, in the distinction between a higher
and a lower "purpose," between a public spirited
interest in such matters as housing reforms and
workingmen's insurance laws, and the insight
which pierces below the surface maladjustments of
the age to the deeper issues involved which are
to some extent true for all ages.
It follows from this perception that the Roman-
ticist's condescending permission to interpret
"tendenz" literature in the light of economic
conditions lays open his very citadel to our attack.
Shelley, par excellence the poet beloved of Roman-
ticists, is among the writers whom we are about
to discuss in his connection with the Industrial
Revolution as well as the French Revolution.
In his preface to Francis Thompson's impres-
sionistic Essay on Shelley, Mr. Wyndham expresses
the idea that this is the sort of appreciation that
Shelley himself would have enjoyed. Such a
generalization cannot be refuted. But the writer
has a private conviction that Francis Thompson's
12 The French Revolution
very beautiful little essay is precisely the sort of
appreciation that Shelley would have felt as
almost insulting. The Shelley that we know,
not merely in the poems, but in his prefaces and
prose works and in the records of his friends, was
rather intensely in earnest about ideas as well as
about beauty of form. He submitted quietly to
hatred and abuse during his life rather than court
success by writing poetry which did not express his
unpopular social ideals. One fancies how he
would have "enjoyed" being discussed as a per-
petual child, no matter how aesthetically the con-
ception was expressed! "Bold foot along the
ledges of precipitous dream" is a fine phrase for
Shelley; but his own phrase is finer, as well as
A nerve o'er which do creep
The else unfelt oppressions of this earth
Shelley was beyond all doubt a writer with a
purpose. In the preface to Prometheus Unbound,
which he himself considered the greatest of his
works, he has left us a frank confession of his
"passion for reforming the world," together with a
masterly analysis of the very point which we have
been discussing' the higher and lower "purpose"
We have endeavoured to indicate some ways
in which the study of the history of literature
might be enriched through a closer alliance with
And the English Novel 13
the study of economic and industrial conditions,
not merely in so far as they are included in the
general history of events, but considered as direct
influences. We have cited for purposes of com-
parison an authoritative expression of the doctrine
known as economic determinism, which is the
extreme form of our suggestion. We have frankly
admitted the need of sound judgment in the use
of this method if it is to be made a valuable ser-
vant subject to the discipline of that true human-
ism to which the student of literature should
unceasingly aspire. Finally, we have considered
the Romantic objection that although it may do
well enough in the case of an inferior form like
"tendenz" literature, the economic interpretation
is a profanation when applied to the higher imagi-
native forms, such as poetry. We have pointed
out that the distinction between so-called "ten-
denz" and didactic literature and the literature of
great ideals is not a distinction in kind, but in
depth of insight and artistic skill in expression ; and
that even the most spiritual of Romantic poets
submits to our so-called economic interpretation
by virtue of his concern with the deeper social
maladjustments of his age.
In the following discussion of the "tendenz"
novels of Revolutionary England we shall endeav-
our to illustrate to some extent the practical
application of the method here suggested. To a
consideration of the English history of French
Revolutionary philosophy, and of the stimulus
14 The English Novel
given to English radicalism by the example of
France, we shall add some observation of the
social maladjustments arising from the Industrial
Revolution and their influence on the thought of
For this our treatment must extend somewhat
beyond the period of actual Revolutionary events.
We may begin our discussion as early as 1780
(the date of Holcroft's first novel) and continue
it at least to include the year 1820, the date of the
great dramatic poem in which the influences of
the French Revolution and the Industrial Revolu-
tion converge, Shelley's Prometheus Unbound.
SECTION I : BACKGROUND OF EVENTS
ONE of the most striking characteristics of the
literature reflecting the French Revolution
in England is its apparent inconsistency. In
1789, poets, novelists, and statesmen are touched
with a fine glow of enthusiasm for liberty and the
sovereignty of the people. A few years pass, and
these same ardent friends of the Revolution, all
save a few stubborn or courageous souls, have
recanted, and are busily engaged in exposing and
denouncing the dangerous tendencies of their
It is not sufficient explanation to charge a whole
nation with having been over ready to praise
something which sober second thought could not
approve. A closer analysis shows us that the
term "French Revolution" is a misleading one.
It should be, "French Revolutions"; for there
was a series of them, as different as possible in
character. Not merely the course of events but
the principles themselves were changed. A man
1 6 The French Revolution
might well approve one without approving all.
Perhaps then, it may be well to review briefly the
chronology of this extremely complex movement.
France during the reigns of Louis XIV. and
Louis XV. was apparently in a flourishing and
orderly condition. It was the most brilliant of
despotisms. English writers, forced to admit the
critical supremacy of their ancient enemy, con-
soled themselves with complacent references to
British liberty and the glories of a constitutional
government. But they really accepted the feudal-
ism and oppressions of France as one of the unal-
terable features of the universe ; ordained, perhaps,
to furnish Whig orators with perpetual material
for eloquent antitheses. The Bourbon regime,
however, was on an increasingly unsound basis.
In the extreme centralization of the government
the nobles had been deprived of their administra-
tive functions, but not of their feudal privileges.
These in no wise strengthened their power, and
were a source of intense irritation to the non-
privileged classes of the bourgeoisie and the pro-
letariat. Moreover, what was more important,
the brilliant court of Versailles was financially
unsound. In spite of the complex and oppressive
machinery of taxation, extravagance and mis-
management had brought the French government
to the verge of bankruptcy. Finally, the brilliant
writers of the Enlightenment were furnishing
eloquent interpretations of the doctrines of popular
sovereignty and political rationalism borrowed
And the English Novel 17
largely from England, and calculated most effect-
ively to undermine authority not based on reason.
A corrupt and frivolous court; a government
needing money; an angry people; and a Revolu-
tionary philosophy ready to hand: this was the
situation that confronted the well-intentioned
mediocrity of the young Louis XVI. on his acces-
sion to the throne in 1774. The first fifteen years
of his reign were a series of blunders in the choice
of ministers. After the dismissal of Turgot,
sporadic attempts at reform under the sententious
Necker alternated with periods of incredible
mismanagement under the queen's favourites.
By 1783 the parlements were growing refractory
and demanding the summoning of the almost
forgotten States General. The king was forced
to submit; and in 1789, after considerable archaeo-
logical research as to methods of election, the
States General met for the first time since 1614.
Serious disagreements as to methods of voting
caused the Representatives of the Third Estate
to withdraw and declare themselves the Con-
stituent Assembly. By this time the turbulent
mobs of Paris were aroused. The Bastile, for
centuries the symbol of oppression, was captured
by a mob; and the Revolution began to assume a
somewhat less academic aspect.
In the midst of increasing popular risings
the Constituent Assembly continued serenely to
quibble over political metaphysics, and in the
course of time produced a Declaration of Rights
1 8 The French Revolution
and a Constitution. These documents, together
with the Cahier presented by local assemblies at
the opening of the States General, represent the
constructive work of the Revolution up to 1791.
These Cahier s offered interesting evidence as to
the temper of the three Estates. The clergy were
the most conservative. They are willing to make
some gifts in return for their exemptions, but then
expected a grateful nation to reimburse them
at once. The nobility, somewhat more liberal,
seemed genuinely ready to sacrifice their privi-
leges and co-operate in reforms. The Third
Estate (represented, as Burke observed, chiefly
by lawyers and small property owners, and thor-
oughly bourgeoisie in character) sent in Cahiers
full of the doctrines of the Social Contract, but
also distinctly more specific than those of the
other two orders in their demands for social and
As might be expected from such an Assembly,
the Declaration of Rights is full of echoes of Rous-
seau and Locke. "Ignorance and forgetfulness
or contempt of the Rights of Man," says the pre-
amble, "are the sole causes of public miseries and
of corruptions of government." But the Consti-
tution itself is curiously conservative. The king
is given full executive power and a suspensive
veto, property rights are carefully secured, and a
property qualification for the suffrage is insisted
upon. On the whole, the machinery of govern-
ment was awkwardly planned, although in the
And the English Novel 19
general conception there was much of permanent
value. In September, 1791, the Constitution was
accepted by the king. In the following month
the National "Legislative Assembly was elected,
according to constitutional provisions.
This marked the first stage of the Revolution.
So far, in spite of occasional outbreaks of mob rule,
there had been little of which England could not
approve. With the exception of a few thinkers
of the type of Burke, popular opinion was strongly
in favour of the Revolution. Englishmen con-
doned its faults, seeing in it a triumph of orthodox
Whig principles. Even the abolition of titles of
nobility (June 19, 1790) was viewed without
The Constituent Assembly had been almost
entirely bourgeois. But with the year 1792 the
forces which had hitherto been subordinate began
to take the lead. The plotting of Louis and the
court party, together with the menaces of foreign
interference were rapidly making a constitutional
monarchy impossible. The Jacobin clubs con-
trolled the elections. The Girondins, who were
the most extreme of the philosophic radicals, domi-
nated the Assembly, subject only to the mob in
the galleries. The proletariat was taking the
Revolution out of the hands of the bourgeoisie.
In June, 1792, the First Coalition was formed
against France. The repeated treachery of the
king and queen lost them the last remnant of
popular favour, and in August they were brought
2O The French Revolution
to Paris and imprisoned in the Temple. A de-
mand for a new and more radical constitution
brought about the election of a National Conven-
tion, which immediately declared France a Repub-
lic (September 21, 1792), and promised aid to
all nations desiring to overthrow their kings. 1
The loss of trade monopolies through the opening
of the Scheldt to unrestricted commerce had
already aroused a spirit of hostility in England.
This action of the Assembly put an end to all
former sympathy with the Revolution. In Janu-
ary, 1793, when the king was tried and executed,
Parliament was on the point of declaring war
against France. The Assembly forestalled them.
From this time until the battle of Waterloo, war
between England and France was almost contin-
uous. The treaties were little more than truces.
Events moved rapidly in France for the next
three years. The foreign wars, the rebellion in
the Vendee, continual fear of a counter revolution,
and the even greater danger of mob law made the
situation of the party in power a most difficult
one. In March, 1793, the Revolutionary Tribu-
nal and the Committee of Public Safety were
established, The Terror was resorted to, not as
a manifestation of lawlessness, but as a govern-
1 In the earlier stages of the Revolution the idea of spreading
the doctrines of Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity by example
and precept took a firm hold of the French imagination. But
when the foreign wars began, the propaganda of a general insur-
rection against kings became a threat, and an officially recognized
part of the policy of the Republic.
And the English Novel 21
ment measure necessary to secure authority over
a lawless nation. But the guillotine became a
general resource of the party in power ; and parties
changed with alarming rapidity. The Jacobins
ousted the Girondins, and they in turn were suc-
ceeded by the Hebertists, the Dantonists, and
Robespierre. After the execution of Robespierre
(July 28, 1794), tne Revolutionary Tribunal was
reorganized, an amnesty offered the rebellious
Vendee, and the Girondins readmitted to the
Convention. The Terror was at an end. In the
following year the Catholic religion (which had
been replaced by the Worship of Reason in 1793,
and by the Worship of the Supreme Being in
1794) was reinstated. By October, 1795, France
was again under a Constitution. The period of the
Revolution, as it is usually considered, was closed.
So far we have observed three distinct stages
in the attitude of England towards the French
Revolution: (i) 1789 to 1791, general approval of
the fall of a despotism. A confident expecta-
tion that France would establish a constitutional
monarchy on Whig principles. (2) 1792. Rapidly
waning confidence in the Revolutionists, as the
bourgeoisie lost control and the movement threat-
ened to become genuinely democratic. England
further antagonized by her economic interests.
(3) *793 and 1794. The reaction at its height.
War was declared. National hatred and class
hatred together reached fever heat. These were
evil days for the Revolutionists in England.
22 The French Revolution
During the ten years preceding the battle of
Waterloo hatred of France and detestation of
anything remotely suggesting Revolution or even
reform continued unabated. As the power of
Bonaparte increased an element of terror was
added. England was fighting literally for national
life as well as for the world market her increasing
manufactures demanded. Never had the feeling
of nationality run so high.
The war period from 1795 to 1815 may be said
to constitute a fourth period in the history of
English Revolutionism. The last stage, from the
battle of Waterloo to 1820, was the worst of the
reaction, when the stimuli of anger, fear, and
patriotism had ceased and a heavy pall of dis-
illusionment and conservatism without ideals
seemed to have settled over the whole country.
Such were the five stages of the influence of the
French Revolution on popular feeling in England.
But a consideration of France alone cannot furnish
a sufficient background of events for our discus-
sion of so complex a movement as Revolutionism.
Another and greater Revolution was nearing com-
pletion in England itself, and it is to this that we
must look for the explanation of many elements
in the thought of the time.
The eighteenth century found English manu-
factures under the domestic system; it left them
under the factory system. Just what that signi-
fies we can perhaps understand better by com-
paring any factory town of our own time with
And the English Novel 23
Defoe's description of his trip through Yorkshire
The land [he says] was divided into small enclosures
of from two acres to six or seven each, seldom more,
every three or four pieces of land having a house
belonging to them; hardly a house standing out of
speaking distance with another. At every consider-
able house there was a manufactory. Every clothier
keeps one horse at least to carry his manufactures to
the market; and every one generally keeps a cow or
two, or more, for his family. By this means the small
pieces of enclosed land about each house are occupied,
for they scarce sow corn enough to feed their poultry.
The houses are full of lusty fellows, some at dye-vats,
some at looms, others dressing the cloths, the women
and children carding and spinning ; all being-employed,
from the youngest to the oldest. 1
The change in the industrial system came about
slowly and inevitably through a succession of
great inventions. In 1770 James Hargreave
patented the spinning-jenny. In 1771 Ark-
wright employed a spinning-machine worked by
water-power. In 1779 Crompton combined the
two. In 1785 Cartwright added the power-loom.
Most important of all, in 1769 James Watt took
out a patent for his steam-engine, which was used
in mining, and later introduced into factories. To
these were added a host of minor inventions and
1 Daniel Defoe, A Tour Through the Whole Island of Great
Britain. 4 vols. London, 1724-27.
24 The French Revolution
improvements; and by 1790 the great change was
Closely connected with the Industrial Revolu-
tion was a similar and practically contemporary
change in the agricultural system. As the own-
ership of land was concentrated in the hands of
a decreasing body of proprietors, many men were
reduced to the status of wage-earning agricultural
labourers and many were driven to seek other
employment. Common lands were enclosed, to
the great detriment of the cottager class. All this
was caused partly by the fact that the small land-
owning manufacturers, whom Defoe describes,
were driven into factories on wages that did
not permit of their owning their homes, and
partly by the tendency of the growing capitalist
class to acquire land for profitable farming on a
large scale. Also, in England the ownership of
land carried with it a certain social distinction
which made it particularly attractive to the social
aspirations of the new aristocracy of wealth.
The significance of these profound changes in
the economic and social structure of society is
hard to estimate. The most obvious result was
the enormous increase in wealth that sustained
England through the Napoleonic wars (which
were themselves brought about partly by the
struggle for a world market). The growth of the
great fortunes fired the popular imagination, en-
couraging an increasingly extravagant standard
of living. All classes seemed more determined
And the English Novel 25
than usual to live just a little beyond their incomes.
As a result, the debtors' prisons were full, and the
literature of the time was pervaded with denun-
ciations of senseless luxury.
Besides all this, there was real suffering among
the dispossessed working-classes. These formed
a discontented, unstable class, given to riots, and
an easy prey to Revolutionary demagogues. If
there was ever any real danger of the doctrines
of the French Revolution gaining a following in
England, it was through this class and not through
the little group of writers and philosophers whose
works we are to consider.
Theories of political economy of course adapted
themselves to the dominant interests of the time.
The laissez-faire system was in high favour in this
age of individualism. Adam Smith's interpreta-
tion of this accommodating doctrine (in The Wealth
of Nations, 1776) was religiously observed by the
parties in power; the right of the individual child
of four to sell his labour in open market according
to the laws of supply and demand was in no wise
interfered with. Consequently the accounts of
factory conditions in the Blue Books of the period
make somewhat ghastly reading. The prevalence
of epidemics among factory populations finally
convinced the dominant classes that in self -pro-
tection something must be done to remedy con-
ditions. In 1802 the Tories overcame their
terror of Revolutionism sufficiently to pass the
First Factory Act. But many years passed
26 The French Revolution
before Parliament dared venture on anything else
in the nature of social reform.
The most fundamental social change growing
out of the Industrial Revolution is perhaps less ob-
vious. A shifting of power that had been going on
for over a century was suddenly completed ; the cap-
italist, or the mercantile and manufacturing class
had superseded the older land-owning aristocracy
as the dominant class in the national life. And in
every historical period it is the ideas and the ideals
of the dominant class in that period that prevail.
Such changes are too subtle and complex to be
indicated offhand. We talk glibly enough about
the epoch-making changes wrought by the French
Revolution in its eight or ten years crowded with
the conflicts of parties and ideas. Its dramatic
values appeal to the imagination. But who shall
estimate the dramatic values of the great silent
Revolution whose shadow is over us still?
The remaining topic in our discussion of the
background of events brings us once more to the
safer ground of definite political occurrences.
The eve of the French Revolution found England
apparently on the point of securing certain mea-
sures of much-needed parliamentary reform. The
American war had just closed with the loss of the
colonies. It was evident that there had been
flagrant mismanagement from beginning to end.
In 1783 the Shelburne Ministry was overthrown
by an alliance between the Whigs under Fox and
the Tory followers of Lord North.
And the English Novel 27
Never [says Green], had the need of a representative
reform been more clearly shown than by a coalition
which proved how powerless was the force of public
opinion to check even the most shameless faction in
Parliament, how completely the lessening of the royal
influence by the measures of Burke and Rockingham
had tended to the profit, not of the people, but of the
borough mongers who usurped its representation. 1
In the same year Pitt proposed a reform in re-
presentation. But as the Whig majority had no
notion of permitting any reforms to their own
disadvantage the bill was thrown out. In 1788
Wilberforce brought in a bill for the abolition of
the slave trade. This was promptly defeated by
the Liverpool slave merchants. It was evident
that there was a strong popular demand for re-
forms. It was also evident that Parliament was
in the hands of those to whose interest it was to
prevent reforms. But England had always be-
fore been able to bring refractory Parliaments
to reason in the long run.
At this juncture, however, the Revolution began
in France. Pitt, always liberal, regarded it with
decided favour. Burke alone among the promi-
nent Whigs opposed it. But Burke had lost his
hold over the House and his eloquent warnings
had no effect. His own party went over entirely
to Fox, whose sympathies were with the Revolu-
tion. This led to the dramatic scene in the House
1 Green, Short History of the English People, p. 421.
28 The French Revolution
which ended the long personal friendship between
the two Whig leaders. Events soon brought
public opinion to Burke's side again, as we have
seen; his Reflections on the Revolution in France
became one of the most popular books of the time.
The reaction against Revolutionism was so
violent that all chance of parliamentary reform
was lost for several decades to come. In 1809
Sir Francis Burdett ventured to touch upon the
forbidden question. Only fifteen members sup-
ported his bill. When a little later he published
it in pamphlet form he was promptly committed
to the Tower. This ended the discussion of
representative reform by Parliament until the
period of reaction was past.
Meanwhile, the nation as a whole was by no
means so indifferent to the question of Represen-
tation as their representatives seemed to be. On
the eve of the Revolution there had been started
a Society for Constitutional Information, I which
distributed pamphlets and drew up a program
"which included such advanced demands as uni-
versal suffrage, equal electoral districts, abolition
of property qualifications for members of the
Commons, payment of members, and vote by
ballot at parliamentary elections." 2 During the
Revolutionary enthusiasm of 1790 innumerable
1 To which, incidentally, most of our Revolutionary novelists
belonged. This was the society against whom the Reflections of
Burke was particularly directed.
3 Ogg, Social Progress in Contemporary Europe, p. 126.
And the English Novel 29
Jacobin clubs sprang up all over the country,
which distributed literature, discussed the most
radical reforms, and incidentally did all they could
to prepare the country for a Revolution after the
model of France. But in 1794 the government
had a nervous attack resulting in a fit of persecu-
tion. All these noisy little clubs, together with
some that were more worthy, were suppressed
with a high hand. After this miniature conser-
vative Reign of Terror we hear no more of the
English Jacobins. J
During the Napoleonic wars the public mind
was sufficiently occupied with the national danger ;
and agitation for parliamentary reform virtually
ceased. After 1815, however, the popular demand
for reforms broke out again in full force, and again
the government began its campaign of suppression.
"The habeas corpus act," says Dr. Ogg, "was
suspended until it became almost a nullity."
The climax was reached in the "Peterloo Mas-
sacre" of 1819, when a peaceable gathering as-
sembled in St. Peter's Field, Manchester, to discuss
questions of parliamentary reform, was attacked
by a troop of cavalry and several persons were
killed. This was followed in the same year by
the infamous Six Acts, "Whereby public meet-
ings for the considerations of grievances was pro-
This marked the turning point of the Reaction.
After 1820 reform legislation began to be forced
1 Cf. account of the trial of Holcroft, in Chapter III.
30 The French Revolution
by public opinion. The nation took up the ques-
tion of adapting its laws and government to
changing conditions where it had been dropped in
1792. The influence of the French Revolution
both as a stimulus and as a check to progress may
be said to have come to an end.
SECTION 2 : THE BACKGROUND OF IDEAS
To give anything like an adequate account of
even one of the currents of thought that were
stirring the public mind in England previous to the
outbreak of the French Revolution would require
a volume in itself. To cover the whole field even
superficially is of course impossible. What is
attempted here is in the nature of an enumeration
of headings, indicating the basis for a few gen-
There is a tendency in most brief accounts of
the literature of this period to speak of the group
of ideas which we may include under the title
Revolutionism, as having come into England with
the writings of Rousseau and the Encyclopaedists,
and gained a brief vogue through the popularity
of the French Revolution in its early stages. This
is not an altogether adequate statement of the
case. To supplement it, however, we must go
back some distance, to the political philosophies
of the preceding century in England. It is
Chesterton, I think, who observes that all accounts
And the English Novel 31
should begin: "In the beginning God created
Heaven and Earth." That is particularly true
of all accounts of the historical development of
ideas. But we shall be making in all conscience a
sufficient deviation from the usual chronology if
we take for our genesis the Puritan Revolution
instead of Rousseau.
Previous to the Reformation in England the
world of political philosophy was a very simple
and orderly one. State and Church alike were
established upon a principle of unquestioned
authority. From serf to emperor, from friar to
pope, every one had his foreordained place in the
scheme of things, and his recognized superior to
whom he owed deference and from whom he
received guidance and protection. The keystone
of the whole social and ecclesiastical structure
was a revealed religion which included the divine
right of kings. The recognition of the subordina-
tion of the individual to an authority external to
himself penetrated every branch of human thought
The Reformation did not change this concep-
tion fundamentally. It was at first merely an
attempt to clear away certain deviations from the
original revelation. This was especially true of
the Anglican Church. So that we may consider
the age of absolute authority in England as
continuing to the time of the Stuarts.
The old order had made for discipline and
3 2 The French Revolution
civilization in the ages of violence, but it was
inelastic. As the middle classes, the merchants
and producers, increased in power they began to
find their subordinate place in the established
system somewhat irksome. In the early part of
the seventeenth century we find such writers
as Buchanan, Althusius, and Mariana advancing
antimonarchic theories. It was at this time that
three significant doctrines appeared in English
political controversies: a pre-political state of
nature, the contractual origin of society, and the
sovereignty of the people. These, it will be ob-
served, involve a fundamentally different basis
of thought; government derives its authority
from man, instead of from God. Changes, then,
even the most radical, may be inexpedient, but
cannot be sacrilegious.
This changed concept gained wide acceptance,
often where its full import was not perceived.
Grotius was affected by it; his contribution to
political thought was a formulation of the rights
between nations no longer held together by the
great bond of unity under the Church. His
great work, De Jure Belli et Pads, appeared in
1625, the year Charles I. came to the English
throne; which brings us to the eve of the Puritan
Under the Commonwealth there were two parties
opposing the old doctrine of the divine right,
representing two entirely distinct interpretations
of the new doctrine of the sovereignty of the people.
And the English Novel 33
(i) The prevailing conception, represented in
Parliament chiefly by the Presbyterians, and
later by Cromwell, recognized the people in their
collective capacity as competent to choose the
rulers to whom they will submit. (2) The extreme
individualistic conception, represented by the
Independents and Levellers, demanded universal
suffrage, absolute freedom of speech and opinion,
and a government perpetually subject to popular
control. It is in this early democratic individu-
alism that we have' the true genesis of Revolu-
tionism in England. A contemporary writes of
this party in terms that suggest! Burke on the
Though the lawes and customes of the kingdom be
never so plain and cleer against their wayes, yet they
will not submit but cry out for naturall rights derived
from Adam and right reason. 1
The doctrines of the Levellers were embodied
in the "Agreement of the People," framed by the
council of the army in 1647. This provided for
ratification by the signatures of every individual
Englishman, and granted to the government only
a delegated authority, subject always to popular
recall. Parliament, however, fell into the hands
of Cromwell, who had small regard for the Level-
lers and their doctrines. The Revolution was
carried through by the Rump, under furious
1 thinning, Political Theories, p. 236.
34 The French Revolution
protests from Lilburne and other Independent
writers. Democratic individualism disappeared
from among the doctrines of English practical
politics for more than a century.
Among the political writers of the latter seven-
teenth century the issue is between authority by
divine right and authority derived from the people,
not, be it observed, between the principles of
authority and individualism. "Milton never
favoured universal suffrage and the rule of the
numerical majority," says Dunning, " 'Liberty
for all and authority for such as were capable'
was his creed." 1 Harrington was even less radi-
cal; he would rest the supreme authority with
those who own most of the property of the com-
munity. Algernon Sydney was essentially an
aristocrat, modified by the republicanism of
classical antiquity. He held that authority must
rest upon consent, but his dislike for democracy
The leading philosophical opponents to these
so-called republicans were Filmer and Hobbes.
Filmer's Patriarchia 2 takes the extreme stand for
divine right, regarding the state as essentially a
family, with the king in undisputed paternal
supremacy over all subjects. Hobbes, on the
1 Dunning, Political Theories, p. 247.
* The Patriarchia was not published until 1680. The exact
date of writing is difficult to determine; but Filmer died in 1653
and this was probably written some years before the time of his
death, so that it is safe to say that the Patriarchia antedates
And the English Novel 35
other hand, is in the curious position of attempting
to justify the old conception with arguments
derived from the new. His rationalism was
extreme. He begins with a state of nature, helium
omnium contra omnes, in which man is antisocial,
governed entirely by passions and instincts, with
no distinction of right and wrong. Natural right
is the right of every man to do that which is ne-
cessary for the preservation of his existence.
Natural laws are the rules determined by reason
as being necessary to self-preservation. These
are three: (i) to seek peace and preserve it, (2) to
abandon natural liberty in order to secure peace,
and (3) to keep covenants made. Hobbes thus
arrives at the conclusion that in order to escape
from the anarchic wars of the state of nature, men
are forced to resign their liberty to a sovereign
power. This is not a contract, for the sovereign
promises nothing, the only agreement being among
the subjects, who have surrendered their liberty
by common consent. Starting with the individual
bound only by self-interest, Hobbes leaves him
with no rights whatever against the state which
his self-interest has forced him to constitute. *
In the long run, however, Hobbes's philosophy
worked against rather than for the absolute
monarchy which he intended it to support. He
had made too many dangerous admissions. Sub-
sequent thinkers might accept his premises, but
they drew their own conclusions.
1 Hobbes, Leviathan, 1651.
36 The French Revolution
In the Restoration the doctrine of divine right
in its most extreme form enjoyed a brief triumph ;
one of the significant features of which was the
firm alliance between Church and king. Every
effort of the Whigs to liberalize existing institu-
tions was met by the obstinate resistance of the
churchmen. Even Hobbes's rationalization of
the obscurantist doctrine was condemned. Dur-
ing this period the dissenting bodies among whom
the doctrines of individualism had flourished were
thoroughly subdued. Henceforth their only polit-
ical endeavours lay along the lines of securing
for themselves religious toleration.
In the Revolution of 1688 it was the doctrine
of modified authority that triumphed. The op-
position to the last two Stuart kings was led by
men of rank and property, having no affinity
whatever with the Levellers and Republicans of
the earlier Rebellion. The Whig Revolution
found its complete philosophical expression in the
writings of John Locke (1632-1704). Locke
began as Hobbes did, with a hypothetical state
of nature. But he rejected Hobbes's conception
of the state of universal war. His state of nature
is social, though not political; equality, governed
by reason and natural law. Even property
rights were respected in such a state, as being
based upon each man's right to his own labour,
and consequently to those things to which he has
added his labour. The state of nature is termi-
nated by a social contract, by which men give up
And the English Novel 37
their right of executing laws and punishing of-
fences in exchange for protection for life and
property. But the power of the sovereign is
limited still by the natural rights retained by the
All this adds nothing to the discussion which
was not involved in the conceptions of previous
philosophers; it is merely a clear formulation of
the position adopted by the leaders in the Whig
Revolution. The Lockian ideas found popular
expression in the writings of Bolingbroke and
The next philospher to make any real contri-
bution to political theory was David Hume (1711-
1776). Although a Whig himself, Hume did
more perhaps than any other writer to undermine
the comfortably complete philosophy of modified
authority which Locke had made appear so
reasonable and the Whigs had accepted so com-
placently for nearly half a century. Hume adopted
Hobbes's view of human nature, and a consistently
utilitarian system of ethics. He rejected abso-
lutely the contract theory as a justification for
If the reason be asked [says Hume], of that obedi-
ence which we are bound to pay to government, I
readily answer, " Because society could not otherwise
subsist : ' ' And this answer is clear and intelligible to all
mankind. Your answer is, "Because we should keep
our word. " But besides, that nobody, till trained in a
philosophical system, can either comprehend or relish
38 The French Revolution
this answer: Besides this, I say, you find yourself
embarrassed, when it is asked, why we are bound to
keep our word? Nor can you give any answer, but
what would, immediately, without any circuit, have
accounted for our obligation to allegiance. T
This brings our discussion of political theory-
down to the middle of the eighteenth century,
to the beginning of the French influence. To sum
up the situation so far: the old conception of an
absolute authority of divine origin has given
place to the conception of a modified authority
derived from the people in their collective capacity,
and rendered morally binding by a social contract.
The doctrine of democratic individualism has
appeared and been for a time supported by a
considerable party among the dissenters; but
since its defeat in 1647 it has ceased to be a factor
in the dominant political philosophies of the
eighteenth century. Finally, the accepted Whig
basis of authority has already been attacked by
the utilitarian scepticism of Hume.
Before we take up the French philosophers
influencing Revolutionism, however, there re-
mains another aspect of English thought which
must be considered: the religious philosophies.
We have observed how close was the connection
between the doctrine of divine right in government
and the Church of absolute authority. The
1 Hume, Essays, Moral, Political, and Literary (1741-42).
(Ed. London, 1882. Vol. i., p. 455-56.)
And the English Novel 39
Established Church and the Whig government
maintain a like similarity. The principle of
authority remained, but it was a rationalized
authority. Revelation was justified by reason. 1
But this common-sense faith did not succeed in
dominating the religious thought of the time quite
so completely as the common-sense government
did the political thought. An increasing group
of churchmen were dissatisfied with a faith in
revelation made perfectly rational. What need,
they began to ask, of any revelation at all? Natu-
ral religion and Deism, influenced by the empiri-
cism of Locke, made rapid headway. In the
hands of writers like Shaftesbury, Bolingbroke,
Toland, Tindal, and a host of others the Deist
controversy became a thing to be reckoned with
by orthodox theologians.
Meanwhile, the Establishment, not rational
enough to satisfy the Deists, had grown too ra-
tional, it seemed, for a very large group of people
who demanded of religion something more than
a system of ethics. The Wesley an movement,
begun as a reform within the Church, resulted in
the establishment of a new sect of dissenters.
Methodism was primarily a reaction against a
narrow rationalism that was limiting and over-
defining the religious life. But the ultimate
philosophy of the movement involved a complete
break with the principle of authority in the name
of religious Individualism. Dr. M'Giffert says
1 Cf., for example, the sermons of Tillotson and Barrow.
4 The French Revolution
of Methodism: "It meant a transfer of emphasis
from the Church as an institution to the personal
religious experience of the individual Christian." 1
That is, the cardinal fact in religion was taken to
be, not a generally authoritative revelation em-
bodied in an institution, but an emotional crisis
in the life of each individual which he took to be
a direct and personal revelation. This was an
assertion of the rights of individual feeling, as
Deism may be said to be an assertion of the right
of individual judgment. Such were the main
currents of thought during the first half of the
eighteenth century. This brings us up to the
beginning of the French influence, which is usually
identified with the English philosophy of Revolu-
tionism. But be it observed, not one element of
importance came into English radical thought
through Rousseau and the Encyclopaedists which
was not there already. The main doctrines of the
Revolution had been familiar to English philo-
sophers since the time of Cromwell at least. But
the issue between Authority and Individualism
had become somewhat obscured. Authority, in
Church and State, was rationalized, and Indi-
vidualism, forced out of practical politics, was
manifesting itself chiefly in the religious world,
and in sceptical philosophies. 2
1 M'Giffert, Protestant Thought Before Kant, p. 163.
* The French philosophers whose writings gained the greatest
vogue in England were Voltaire and the Encyclopaedists, Rous-
seau, Holbach, and Helvetius. As these are discussed in some
detail by Dr. Hancock, we need do no more than mention them
And the English Novel 41
All this is in no way intended to minimize the
part the French philosophers had in stimulating
English Revolutionism. If they introduced no
new concepts into English thought, they restated
the old ones with genius. Rousseau especially
exerted an influence in England which it would
be hard to overestimate. Never had the doctrines
of Sentimental Individualism been so alluringly
presented. The state of nature previous to the
social contract, which was to Hobbes a state of
war and misery, and to Locke a state of mere
negative excellence, became in Rousseau's hands
the earthly paradise. Deism, which not even the
enthusiasm of Shaftesbury could make more than
a somewhat chilly hypothesis, became a real faith
as interpreted by the Savoyard Vicar. The belief
that feeling in itself constitutes virtue was carried
to its logical conclusion by this arch Sentimental-
ist. Julie, St. Preux, Emile, Sophie, and the
Rousseau of the Confessions became living ideals
in the minds of Englishmen who would never
have thought of reading a metaphysical discussion
of the philosophy of feeling.
But the true reason for connecting the movement
in England, which we are discussing, with the
French Revolution does not lie in the stimulus
which it undoubtedly received from French
writers. It was the events of the year 1789 that
here. But it may be added, if these influenced English thought,
they had themselves been previously influenced by English
42 The French Revolution
removed Revolutionism from the realm of purely
speculative philosophy to that of active political
propaganda, for the first time since the Common-
In England there was, as we have seen, a grow-
ing social unrest due primarily to economic causes.
Philosophies of change and revolution were al-
ready familiar to the English mind. The fall of
the Bastille was symbolic. It was a tocsin call
at whose sound the older democratic individu-
alism, which had not appeared in practical poli-
tics since its defeat in 1647, awoke and became
a force to be reckoned with by conservative
The situation in England was, as we have
observed, extremely complex. Issues were not
so clear as those in France. A century of ration-
alizing and sentimentalizing on both sides had
obscured the ancient conflict between Authority
and Individualism. But, as in the days of Inde-
pendents and Levellers, it was among the dissent-
ing sects that individualism as a political principle
found its readiest acceptance. The intellectual
affinity between dissent and Revolutionism was
perhaps emphasized by the discontent arising
from the legal disabilities still attached to non-
The Revolutionists in England were at no
time a large or powerful group, although the ex-
ample afforded them by France and the preva-
lence of social unrest gave the government some
And the English Novel 43
cause to fear that their doctrines might spread
and ultimately result in the overthrow of the
The most important among the Revolutionists,
fortunately for our discussion, used the novel as a
vehicle for their propaganda. There are a few,
however, who wrote no novels, but whom we must
mention for the sake of completeness. Dr. Price,
a dissenting preacher, and Joseph Priestley, a
philosophical writer of the school of Locke, were
among the earliest if not the most radical of the
Revolutionists. ' ' In their writings, ' ' says Sir Leslie
Stephen, "we catch for the first time the true
Revolutionary tone." 1 They are, however, im-
portant chiefly as they influenced more prominent
Thomas Paine possessed the merit of populariz-
ing the doctrines of more intellectual men than
himself. It was Paine, not Godwin, nor even
Rousseau, whose works were printed in cheap
form and read by Jacobin clubs of discontented
workingmen. The Rights of Man had hundreds
of readers where Political Justice had one. In the
type of audiences which Paine found, ideas linger.
Curiously enough, Paine's crude but vigorous
denunciations of priesthood and tyranny still
find readers in certain circles.
Among the opponents of Revolutionism two
deserve especial mention. Burke's writings are
1 Leslie Stephen, English Thought 'in the Eighteenth Century,
vol. ii., p. 252.
44 The French Revolution
too well known to require discussion here. But
perhaps the answer to Revolutionism which most
influenced thought in the following century was
not Burke's Reflections, but the theory of popu-
lation advanced by Malthus. He perceived the
absurdity of the theories on which Godwin's
belief in the perfectibility of man and the speedy
coming of an age of peace were founded. The
objections which he raised, that in such an event
the population would outgrow the food supply
and civilization be overthrown by the mere strug-
gle for existence, continued to trouble social
idealists as late, certainly, as the date of Tenny-
son's second Locksley Hall, in spite of the floods
of "answers" to Malthus which were written
from almost every conceivable standpoint. Per-
haps it was too sound Darwinism to be answered
except by facts.
Perhaps before we turn to the novels, it may
be well to quote in extenso a concise and admirably
critical statement of the Revolutionary philosophy
by a younger contemporary of the novelists whom
we are considering. William Hazlitt was not
only acquainted with that point of view as it
appeared in books, but had the advantage of
knowing the authors personally, and hearing their
informal discussions of the questions involved.
His own attitude is not unsympathetic, although
he is writing during the last decade of the Reaction.
This summary of the leading doctrines of Revolu-
And the English Novel 45
tionism may furnish a good point of departure
for our discussion of its variations at the hands
of individual writers.
The opinion of the power of truth to crush error
had been gaining ground in this country ever since
the Reformation; the immense improvements in
natural and mechanical knowledge within the last
century had made it appear nearly impossible to
limit the discoveries of art and science; as great a
revolution (and it was generally supposed as great
improvements) had taken place in the theory of the
human mind in consequence of Mr. Locke's Essay;
and men's attention having been lately forcibly called
to many of the evils and abuses existing in society, it
seemed as if the present was the era of moral and polit-
ical improvement, and that as bold discoveries and as
large advances towards perfection would shortly be
made in these, as had been made in other subjects.
That this inference was profound or just, I do not
affirm, but it was natural, and strengthened not only
by the hopes of the good, but by the sentiments of the
most thinking men.
As far as any practical experiment had been tried,
the result was not discouraging. Of two revolutions
that had taken place, one, that of America, had suc-
ceeded, and a more free and equal government had
been established, without tumult, civil discord, ani-
mosity, or bloodshed, except what had arisen from the
interference of the mother country. The other Revo-
lution, that of France, was but begun: but it had at
that time displayed none of those alarming features
which it afterwards discovered. . . . The pillars of
46 The French Revolution
oppression and tyranny seemed to have been over-
thrown : man was about to shake off the fetters which
had bound him in wretchedness and ignorance; and
the blessings that were yet in store for him were unseen
and incalculable. Hope smiled upon him, and pointed
With these feelings and with these encouragements,
from the state of the public mind, reasoning men
began to inquire what would be the ruling principles
of action in a state of society as perfect as we can
suppose, or the general diffusion of which would
soonest lead to such a state of improvement.
In such a state of things (men) believed that wars,
bloodshed and national animosities would cease; that
peace and good-will would reign among men; and
that the feeling of patriotism, necessary as it now is to
preserve the independence of states, would die away
of itself with national jealousies and antipathies, with
ambition, war and foreign conquest. Family attach-
ments would also be weakened or lost in the general
principle of benevolence, when every man would be a
brother. Exclusive friendships could no longer be
formed, because they would interfere with the true
claims of justice and humanity, and because it would
be no longer necessary to keep alive the stream of the
affections by confining them to a particular channel,
when they would be continually refreshed, invigorated,
and would overflow with the diffusive soul of mutual
philanthropy and generous, undivided sympathy with
all men. Gratitude to benefactors would be forgotten ;
but not from a hateful, selfish spirit, or hardened
And the English Novel 47
insensibility to kind offices ; but because all men would
in fact be equally ready to promote one another's
welfare, that is, equally benefactors and friends to
each other without motives, either of gratitude or of
self-interest. Promises, in like manner would be no
longer binding or necessary. False honour, false shame,
vanity, emulation, and so forth, would upon the same
principle give way to other and better motives. It is
evident that laws and punishments would cease with
the cause that produces them, the commission of crimes.
Neither would the distinctions of property subsist in a
society where the interests and feelings of all would be
more intimately blended than they are at present among
members of the same family, or among the dearest
friends. Neither the allurements of ease or wealth, nor
the dread of punishment would be required to incite to
industry, or to prevent fraud or violence, in a state
where all would cheerfully labour for the good of all ;
and where the most refined reason and inflexible jus-
tice actuated the whole community. The labour,
therefore, requisite to produce the necessaries of life,
would be equally divided among the members of
such a community, and the remainder of their time
would be spent in the pursuit of science, in the culti-
vation of the noblest arts, and in the most refined and
However wild and visionary this scheme may ap-
pear, it is certain that its greatest fault is in expecting
higher things of human nature than it seems at
present capable of, and in exacting such a divine or
angelic degree of virtue and wisdom, before it can be
put in practice, as without a miracle in its favour
must for ever prevent its becoming anything more
48 The English Novel
than a harmless dream, a sport of the imagination, or
an exercise of the schools. x
1 Hazlitt, Memoirs of Holcroft (1816), vol. ii., pp. 123-33.
NOTE. We shall have occasion to use the term Sentimentalism
rather frequently in the course of our discussion. As this is one of
the critical terms which each writer uses, apparently, with a slightly
different shade of meaning, it may be well to define the sense in
which we shall use it here. Sentimentalism is that view of life,
and incidentally, that view of art, which regards feeling as an end
in itself. Sentimentalism is not a matter of degree of emotion,
or even of quality of emotion; it depends entirely upon one's
attitude towards one's own emotional experiences. One may
value feeling very highly as a stimulus to fine action, or for the
powers of insight and imagination which intense emotion some-
times releases, without being in the least a Sentimentalist. The
Sentimentalist is interested in his emotional reactions quite apart
from their cause or their result. Feeling for him has ceased to be
a means or a by-product, and becomes the central fact of his
existence. When he feels virtuously, that for him constitutes
A REPRESENTATIVE REVOLUTIONIST
THE fact that we are considering Revolution-
ism through the medium of the novel gives
us one distinct advantage over more general
treatments. We are entitled to give the first
place in our discussion to the unfortunately little
known Thomas Holcrof t rather than to the usually
somewhat overemphasized work of Godwin. This
arrangement is the more satisfactory one, for
several reasons. It is historically correct. Hoi-
croft was the older man, and decidedly the more
original and independent thinker of the two.
Godwin himself admits this and acknowledged
his indebtedness. Anna St. Ives was one of the
earliest and fullest popular expressions of the
Revolutionary philosophy in any form. Certainly
it is the earliest and fullest in fiction.
But more important than chronological correct-
ness, Holcroft is a truer representative of Revo-
lutionary idealism. The new philosophy as it
appears in his novels is saner, kindlier, and more
50 The French Revolution
comprehensible than are the doctrines of the
ex-Calvinist Godwin. One can better understand
the sudden fervour of devotion with which so many
young poets greeted what seemed a new evangel.
Since we are to listen in another chapter to the
case against Revolutionism, it is well that we may
see it first through the medium of a personality
so winning as that of Thomas Holcroft.
One of the things which Holcroft always in-
tended and always delayed was the writing of his
autobiography. In the last year of his life he
actually began the task, and in spite of intense
physical suffering managed to dictate the first
few chapters. The work was completed after
his death, with the aid of his diary and letters,
by the friendly hand of William Hazlitt. This
is a book which tempts to quotation; it is one of
the most vital of biographies. But it is enough
for our purpose here to indicate in outline as
brief as may be something of the life of this "ac-
quitted felon" (as his opponents called him), this
Revolutionary dreamer who was forced into exile
for the faith a generation earlier than Shelley.
Holcroft came naturally by his lifelong finan-
cial incapacity; his father before him was one of
the chronically unsuccessful. During Thomas
Holcroft's childhood, he was successively a shoe-
maker, groom's helper, horse trader, and finally,
wandering pedlar. But he was an affectionate
father, and gave his son the best education in his
power. Thomas was taught to read early; at
And the English Novel 51
the age of four his task was "eleven chapters a
day in the Old Testament," which he supplemented
on his own account with chapmen's books of
adventure, borrowed from a friendly 'prentice
lad. This was the extent of his father's ability
in the way of "book learning." But he added
other lessons which the boy never forgot : to endure
hardship without complaining, to despise self-
indulgence in all forms, to speak the truth, and
to fear nothing but cowardice. Thomas had need
of such lessons, for his childhood was not an easy
one. As the family fortunes declined and both
father and mother took to peddling, the little boy
trudged after them through town and country,
often faint with weariness and hunger. Before
he was nine, he tells us, he was "trusted with
business more like an adult than a child," 1 and
severely beaten for loitering on errands. The
picture is not all dark, however. There were
pleasant memories of sunny summer highways,
and country fairs and market days where the
future comedian listened in rapture to the rude
jests of the merry-andrew. Nor was the passion
for books quite lost. A stray ballad or so was a
very treasure trove. But, he remarks, in naive
apology for his deficiencies: "I had little leisure
or opportunity to acquire any knowledge by
reading. I was too much pressed by fatigue,
hunger, cold, and nakedness." He adds: "There
was a single instance in which I travelled a-foot
1 Hazlitt, Memoirs of Holer oft, vol. i., p. 46.
52 The French Revolution
thirty miles in one day. I think this happened
before I was ten years of age." 1 But there is no
trace of self-pity in the telling. Holcroft never
sentimentalizes over his forlorn childhood. He
records it all in a matter-of-fact way, with evident
pride in his childish powers of endurance, and
loving respect for his ne'er-do-well father.
Soon after this, thanks to his indomitable cour-
age and his stunted growth, young Holcroft at-
tained to the summit of his ambitions, the position
of stable-boy in a racing stable. Here he was
entirely happy. He was not starved, not much
overworked, and (after he had thrashed all his
young companions) not molested in his eager
pursuit of whatever chances of education might
fall in his way. Stray copies of Addison and
Swift opened new worlds to him. To these were
added Bunyan, and Baxter's Saints' Rest. Even
as a child Holcroft seems to have had a strong
religious sense; but he was always singularly free
from superstition or sentimentalism. Of this
early fondness for devotional books he writes
very sensibly: "I was truly well intentioned, but
my zeal was too ardent and liable to become dan-
gerous." 2 Holcroft also found time to learn some-
thing of music, and finally arranged to get a
little desultory schooling in off hours.
At the age of sixteen he left the stables and went
to London as an apprentice to his father, who had
again taken to shoemaking. His apprenticeship
1 Memoirs, vol. i. f p. 50. * Ibid., vol. i., p. 140.
And the English Novel 53
was not successful, because "his time was idled
away in reading, ' ' and at ' ' spouting clubs. ' ' At the
age of twenty, with no prospects whatever, he mar-
ried very happily. Holcroft's domestic life seems
always to have been ideal. After trying several
occupations he was on the point of enlisting for the
wars in despair, when a friend persuaded him to
join a company of strolling actors. This was in the
year 1770. Holcroft remained on the stage for
many years thereafter, acting chiefly comedy parts,
with moderate success. He began to eke out his
uncertain income with hack writing, as his family
responsibilities increased . Ultimately he withdrew
from the stage, and began to earn his living en-
tirely by his pen, writing novels and plays, and
translating from the French and German.
Meanwhile his passion for reading continued
unabated. Hazlitt's account x>f his literary tastes
is interesting. Here, as in everything else, Hol-
croft was untainted by Sentimentalism.
Pope always held the highest place in his esteem
after Milton, Shakespeare, and Dry den. He used
often, in particular to repeat the character of Atticus,
which he considered as the finest piece of satire in the
language. Moral description, good sense, keen ob-
servation, and strong passion, are the qualities which
he seems chiefly to have sought in poetry. He had
therefore little relish even for the best of our descrip-
tive poets, and often spoke with indifference approach-
ing to contempt of Thomson, Akenside, and others. 1
1 Memoirs, vol. i. f p. 253.
54 The French Revolution
In 1789 Holcroft stiff ered the greatest grief of
his life, the suicide of his only son, to whom he was
devotedly attached. Hazlitt says:
The shock Mr. Holcroft received was almost mortal.
For three days he could not see his own family, and
nothing but the love he bore that family could possibly
have prevented him from sinking under his affliction.
He seldom went out of his house for a whole year
afterwards, and the impression was never completely
effaced from his mind. 1
Possibly the best-known incident in Holcroft's
life was his trial for treason, in 1794. The exact
nature of his political opinions we shall consider
in connection with the novels. For the present
it is sufficient to say, that Holcroft was too earnest
and independent a thinker to have remained en-
tirely orthodox in his convictions. In the literary
circles of London he came in contact with all
the newer currents of thought. He became a
member of the Society for Constitutional infor-
mation, and frequently attended their meetings;
but not altogether approving of their proceed-
ings, he took little part in the debates. The
views expressed in his published works differ
somewhat from those held by the majority of the
members; in any case, they form rather a system
of social ethics than a political manifesto. But
when the tide of popular feeling turned against
France and the Government became alarmed for
1 Memoirs, vol. ii. f p. 102.
And the English Novel 55
its own safety, there was no limit to the spirit of
The Constitutional Society had no idea that
their obscure, semi-metaphysical discussions could
possibly attract official attention. But rumours
began to be afloat that the Government intended
to take action against them. Holcroft was utterly
amazed. "Surely," he said, "there have been
practises of which I am totally ignorant, or men
are running mad." 2 And after the lapse of a
century, we cannot but feel that his latter suppo-
sition was entirely correct. Official insanity
reached its crisis when a warrant was issued naming
twelve members of the society 3 on the absurd
charge of High Treason. A rumour of this war-
rant got abroad, was contradicted, began again,
and was again contradicted. Holcroft, who was
on the point of leaving town, changed his plans
at the first report and remained in London, lest
he might seem to avoid inquiry. He wrote to
his daughter with characteristic firmness:
The charge is so false and absurd it has not once
made my heart beat. For my own part, I feel no
enmity against those who endeavour thus to injure me ;
being persuaded that in this, as in all other instances,
it is the guilt of ignorance. They think they are doing
x We have already quoted (in Chapter I.) Hazlitt's vivid
account of this reign of unreason.
' Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 153.
Holcroft, Home Tooke, and Thomas Hardy were the best
known of these.
56 The French Revolution
their duty: I will continue to do mine, to the very
utmost of my power; and on that will cheerfully rest
my safety. 1
Without waiting for an arrest, Holcroft surren-
dered himself to the Lord Chief Justice, demand-
ing to know the charge against him; a display
of dignity and fortitude which considerably em-
barrassed the authorities, and exposed him to the
sneers of the venial press. The paragraph in the
St. James Chronicle was typical :
Mr. Holcroft, the playwright and performer, pretty
well known for the democratical sentiments which he
has industriously scattered through the lighter works
of literature, such as plays, novels, songs, etc., sur-
rendered himself on Tuesday at Clerkwell Sessions
House, requesting to know if he was the person
against whom the Grand Jury had found a bill for
High Treason. . . . We do not understand that
he is in any imminent danger, and suppose from his
behaviour he has the idea of obtaining the reputation
of a martyr to liberty at an easy rate.
On which Hazlitt comments sarcastically :
What a pleasant kind of government that must be,
which is so fond of playing at this mock tragedy of
indictments for High Treason, that the danger arising
from their prosecution is made a subject of jest and
buffoonery even by their own creatures. 2
1 Memoirs, vol. ii., p. 157. ' Ibid., vol. ii., pp. 174, 175.
And the English Novel 57
The story of the trials is too well known to
need repetition. After the acquittal of Thomas
Hardy and Home Tooke, the rest were dismissed
without trial; which Holcroft regarded as a grave
injustice, since, having been publicly accused, he
wished to be publicly heard in his own defence.
But after examining the report of the evidence
against him, one does not wonder that the Govern-
ment was not anxious to expose its own imbe-
cility by a public trial. Here is a sample of the
evidence on which he was indicted :
Mr. Holcroft talked a great deal about Peace, of his
being against any violent or coercive means, that were
usually resorted to against our fellow creatures ; urged
the more powerful operation of Philosophy and Reason,
to convince man of his errors; that he would disarm
his greatest enemy by those means, and oppose his
fury. Spoke also about Truth being powerful; and
gave advice to the above effect to the delegates present
who all seemed to agree, as no person opposed his
arguments. This conversation lasted better than an
hour, and we departed. 1 [The witness adds:] Mr.
Holcroft was a sort of natural Quaker; but did not
believe in the secret impulses of the Spirit, like the
Holcroft published the testimony and his de-
fence immediately upon his acquittal. But if he
made the Government ridiculous, the Government
was amply avenged. Hereafter he was branded
1 Memoirs, vol. ii., pp. 186, 187.
58 The French Revolution
everywhere as an "acquitted felon." He was
an object of suspicion to the authorities at home
and abroad, so that passports were actually refused
him, on the charge of being a spy. Most seri-
ous of all to a professional dramatist, the whole
force of popular prejudices was turned against his
plays; so that finally he was forced to publish
under a friend's name in order to gain a hearing.
For years he was forced to live abroad because of
the general feeling against him in England. It
was only at the close of his life that he returned
to his own country, where he died, in 1809, sur-
rounded by his children and the friends of his
It is pleasant to know of such a life. In all the
years of struggle against poverty, ill health, and
misfortune one finds no records that one would
like to forget. When critics declare that his
"Frank Henley" and "Hugh Trevor" represent
an impossible nobility of character, we hesitate,
remembering the stainless gentleman who drew
them. All the responsibility of a numerous family
with the added care of his aged parents, never
forced him to the mean and petty expediencies so
common among the literary men who were his
friends. Coleridge and Godwin thought the world
owed them a living; and they were not backward
in asking for it. Holcroft's only remedies for the
ills of poverty were self-denial and hard work.
He never begged or borrowed. Looking at the
long list of his writings, one is amazed at the
And the English Novel 59
industry of the man. Malice and persecution
brought from him a dignified protest, but no
aftermath of complaining. As he formulated his
political idealism before the flood-tide of Revolu-
tionary popularity, so he held it unchanged through
the long years of the Reaction. When Words-
worth, Coleridge, Southey, and even Blake had
recanted, Godwin and Paine had fallen silent,
and all the world seemed to have forgotten its
vision of Democracy, Thomas Holcroft kept the
faith, true knight without fear and without
reproach. In his diary for 1798 there is a record
of a friend who asked him "whether the universal
defection had not made him turn aristocrat?"
I answered [writes Holcroft], that I supposed my
principles to be founded in truth, that is, in experience
and fact : that I continued to believe in the perfectibil-
ity of man, which the blunders and passions of ignor-
ance might apparently delay, but could not prevent;
and that the only change of opinion I had undergone
was, that political revolutions are not so well cal-
culated to better man's condition as during a certain
period I with almost all thinking men in Europe had
been led to suppose. r
Holcroft was the author of four novels. Two
of these, the first and the last, we may pass over
lightly. The other two 2 contain the full expression
of Holcroft's Revolutionism.
1 Memoirs, vol. iii., p. 65.
*/. e. t Anna St. Ives and Hugh Trevor, which we shall consider
in their proper chronological order.
60 The French Revolution
Alwyn, or The Gentleman Comedian (1780) was
received with only moderate success, and distinctly
unfavourable reviews. The plot as a whole is of
little interest to us. 1 The political theories are
the same as in the later novels, only not so com-
pletely worked out. The characters are worth
comment, however. Holcroft himself appears
as the friend of the hero, under the name of
Hilkirk, a young man who betakes himself to
the stage on being discharged from his position
as a clerk "for his frequenting spouting clubs and
billiard rooms": a portrait without vanity, cer-
tainly. The other interesting character is Hand-
ford, a sentimental gentleman whose ruling passion
is the prevention of cruelty to animals. He
establishes a humane asylum for cats, and finds
himself frightfully imposed on. He says in
I believe all the cats in Christendom are assembled
in Oxfordshire. The village where I live has become a
constant fair. A fellow has set up the Sign of the
Three Blind Kittens, and has the impudence to tell the
neighbours that if my whims and my money only
hold out for one twelve-month, he will not care a fig
for the king. 8
This not unkindly satire, Hazlitt conjectures, was
directed by the author against his friend Ritson's
1 This novel is summarized by Hazlitt, Memoirs, vol. ii., pp, 2
* Ibid., vol. ii., p. 10.
And the English Novel 61
arguments "on the inhumanity of eating animal
Holcroft's second novel, Anna St. Ives (1792),
is the story of two young persons who do some
quixotic things and say a great many foolish ones,
bringing down upon themselves a great deal of well-
deserved ridicule. But somehow they keep their
idealism while they learn wisdom, and in the end
win the respect of their keenest opponent.
The action centres in three figures; Anna St.
Ives, the daughter of a baronet, a thoughtful girl
with a capacity for fine enthusiasms; Coke Clifton,
whom her family intend her to marry; and Frank
Henley, the son of her father's overseer. As this
is a novel in letter form, there are several minor
characters with whom they correspond, but the
action is simple and there is no sub-plot.
Frank Henley is a young man with a vigorous
intellect and a habit of thinking for himself. He
has reached certain conclusions as to the relative
values in life, with the result that he takes for the
vital principle to which all his thought and action
is referred, not self-interest, but service. Just
what there was in this to bring down such a storm
of protest from Holcroft's opponents one is at a
loss to discover. It is a point of view about life
which found expression many centuries earlier,
on a much higher authority than that of Thomas
Holcroft. But from the tone of contemporary
criticism one would supose that in Frank Henley
the author was promulgating a highly original
62 The French Revolution
and dangerous doctrine, instead of merely illus-
trating the practice of a principle that was safely
embalmed in the creeds of the orthodox.
Frank Henley's father, a shrewd business man,
represents what was apparently the more usual
point of view. Frank says of him: "He despises
my sense of philanthropy, honour, and that severe
probity to which no laws extend. He spurns at
the possibility of preferring the good of society
to the good of self." 1
To this basic ideal of a life consecrated to the
service of society Henley adds certain conclusions
which he has reached as to the way of greatest
usefulness. He writes to a friend, with wistful
I half suspect, indeed, that the world is not quite
what it ought to be. [Then, more seriously], In order
to perform my duty in the world, I ought to under-
stand its manners, its inhabitants, and principally its
laws, with the effects which the different legislation
of different countries has produced. I believe this to be
the most useful kind of knowledge. 2
Ignorance and prejudice are at the bottom of
all the ills of the world, he believes. " How incon-
stant are the demands and complaints of ignorance !
It wishes to tyrannize, yet complains against
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. i., p. 27.
2 Ibid., vol. i., p. 185. Holcroft had, of course, no conception of
social evolution, and the historical method as we understand it.
But to break with the past was no part of his intention.
And the English Novel 63
tyranny. . . . There is no tyranny but that of
prejudice." 1 Therefore his strongest efforts must
always be directed towards the spread of education,
and of right ways of thinking. But he recognizes
that forms of government have much to do with
the progress and happiness of nations. He
Among the many who have a vague kind of suspi-
cion that things might be better are mingled a few
who seem desirous that they should remain as they
are. These are the rich; who having plundered the
defenseless, say to the hungry who have no food,
"Labour for me, and I will return you the tenth of
your gain. Shed your blood in my behalf, and while
you are young and robust I will allow you just so
much as will keep life and soul together. When you
are old, and worn out, you may rob, hang, rot, or
starve," yet let us not complain. Men begin to
reason and think aloud; and these things cannot al-
ways endure. Let men look around and deny if they
can that the present wretched system of each provid-
ing for himself instead of the whole for the whole,
does not inspire suspicion, fear, and hatred. Well,
well! another century, and then
Henley loves Anna St. Ives, and feels that they
two might find the perfect friendship ; as Holcroft
says finely, "the friendship of marriage. Surely if
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. ii., p. 46.
a Ibid., vol. iv., p. 42. Holcroft's having fixed upon our cen-
tury as the date for the millennium seems like one of life's little
64 The French Revolution
marriage be not friendship according to the best
and highest sense in which that word is used, mar-
riage cannot but be something faulty and vicious." T
Anna is aware of his love; but she hesitates, be-
cause her world would not consider him her equal.
Her reasoning here is worth noting as an illus-
tration of Holcroft's attitude on questions of
propriety and expediency. He has an excellent
sense of proportion; he gives these things their
full value, although he declines to make them the
centre of his ethical code. Anna reflects :
My family ana the world are prejudiced and unjust.
I know it. But where is the remedy? Can we work
miracles? Will the prejudices vanish at our bidding?
. . . Though I earnestly desire to reform, I almost as
earnestly wish not unnecessarily to offend the pre-
judices of mankind. . . . No arguments, I believe, can
show me that I have a right to sport with the feelings
of my father and friends, even when those feelings
are founded in prejudice. 2
At this juncture Coke Clifton makes his appear-
ance. He is a young man of the world, clever,
fascinating, keen of intellect, and with a strong
aversion to all forms of cant. He falls in love
with Anna's beauty and genuine goodness, but
he has no patience with her solemn priggishness.
Henley he finds quite intolerable. The letters
in which Clifton describes these two young dream-
ers are brilliant bits of satire. We who criticize
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. i., p. 107. Ibid., vol. ii., p. 156.
And the English Novel 65
Holcroft's heroes for their tendency to preach
need not plume ourselves upon any special dis-
cernment; Holcroft was perfectly capable of
criticizing himself with greater discernment than
his opponents have ever shown. Godwin, having
neither imagination nor a sense of humour, cari-
catures his own theories unconsciously. Holcroft
had both, and some knowledge of the world to
boot. His faith in the ultimate triumph of social
idealism was so deep and serene that he could
afford to laugh at the well-meaning tiresomeness
of himself and his fellow idealists. Here is a
sample of Clifton's account of Frank Henley:
J. cannot deny that the pedagogue sometimes sur-
prises me with the novelty of his opinions; but they
are extravagant. The rude pot-companion loquacity
of the fellow is highly offensive. He is one of your
levellers. Marry! His superior! Who is he? On
what proud eminence can he be found? On some
Welsh mountain, or the peak of Teneriff e ? Certainly
not in any of the nether regions. Dispute his preroga-
tive who dare! He derives from Adam; what time
the world was hail fellow well met ! The savage, the
wild man of the woods is his true liberty boy; and the
ourang-outang his first cousin. A lord is a merry
andrew, a duke a jack-pudding, and a king a tomfool:
his name is Man !
Then, as to property, 'tis a tragic farce; 'tis his
sovereign pleasure to eat nectarines, grow them who
will. Another Alexander he ; the world is all his own !
Aye, and he will govern it as he best knows how.
66 The French Revolution
He will legislate, dictate, dogmatize, for who so in-
As for arguments, it is but ask, and have: a peck at
a bidding, and a good double handful over. I own I
thought I knew something; but no, I must to my
horn-book. Then for a simile, it is a sacrilege; and
must be kicked out of the high court of logic! Sar-
casm too is an ignoramus, and cannot solve a problem
with a pert puppy who can only flash and bounce. The
heavy walls of wisdom are not to be battered down
with such pop-guns and pellets. He will waste you
wind enough to set up twenty millers, in proving an
apple is not an egg shell; and that homo is greek for a
goose. Duns Scotus was a schoolboy to him. x
Suspecting Anna's partiality for Henley, Clifton
takes occasion to quarrel with him, challenges him
to a duel, and when Henley refuses, calls him a
coward and strikes him. Henley answers quietly :
"No man can be degraded by another. It must
be his own act." 2 Soon after, Henley vindicates
his courage by saving Clifton's life at the risk of
Fortified by the knowledge of former conquests,
Clifton thinks he need only ask and Anna will be
his. To his utter surprise, she answers serenely
that he must wait for her decision until they are
better acquainted. Clifton, falling into the usual
rant on such occasions, offers to "do and dare
anything for her sake." This^ brings a spirited
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. i., p. 116 f. ' Ibid. vol. iii., p. 42.
And the English Novel 67
Dare you receive a blow, or suffer yourself falsely to
be called liar or coward, without seeking revenge, or
what honour calls satisfaction? Dare you think the
servant that cleans your shoes is your equal, unless
not so wise and good a man, and your superior, if
wiser or better? Dare you suppose mind has no sex,
and that woman is not by nature the inferior of man ?
Dare you make it the business of your whole life to
overturn these prejudices, and to promote among
mankind the spirit of universal benevolence which
shall render them all equals, all brothers ? [Seeing his
amazement she adds somewhat sadly], Your opinions
and principles are those which the world most highly
approves and applauds; mine are what it daily calls
impracticable and absurd. x
This is perhaps the strangest love scene in all
eighteenth century fiction. But there is stranger
yet to follow. Appreciating Clifton's real powers
of intellect, Anna decides that she will marry him,
if by so doing she can influence him to a truer
way of thinking. Whereupon she goes to Henley,
admits she loves him, then tells him the whole
situation, asking him to put aside his own love
for her and help her win his rival to the truth they
serve ! Henley, after a struggle with his own dis-
appointment, promises to help her; telling her,
however, that he thinks her sacrifice a useless and
Henley and Anna do their best to win Clifton
by argument. He, naturally enough, does not
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. iii., p. 156 f.
68 The French Revolution
enjoy this perpetual sermonizing, and soon be-
comes disgusted with the idea of marrying Anna.
But he determines to be revenged upon her for
his humiliation. For purposes of his own, he
feigns conversion, and proceeds to carry their
argument further than they intend. He thinks :
She starts at no proposition, however extravagant,
if it do but appear to result from any one of her
favourite systems, of which she has a good round
number. Is it not possible to prove marriage a mere
prejudice? All individual property is evil marriage
makes woman individual property therefore mar-
riage is evil Could there be better logic? 1
Intending to persuade Anna that it is her duty to
"be a heroine and defy present necessity," Clifton
entraps her with this argument. He puzzles,
but cannot convince her. As she writes afterward,
she "knew there was an answer, a just and irre-
fragable one, though she could not immediately
find it." Hearing of this brilliant piece of wisdom
on Clifton's part, Henley supplies the answer of
common sense, dismissing the whole matter as
simple absurdity. 2
Baffled in this, Clifton resorts to force. He has
Anna kidnapped and concealed in a country
house of his from which Henley rescues her.
Clifton is dangerously wounded, and is almost
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. v., p. 20 f. William Godwin takes up this
very argument in all seriousness, two years later.
* Thereby proving his penetration superior to that of William
Godwin, who did not know a reductio ad absurdum when he saw it.
And the English Novel 69
insane with remorse for the crimes he has at-
tempted. Anna and Frank visit him, assuring
him, not of their forgiveness, but that they have
nothing to forgive.
Of what have you been guilty ? Why, of ignorance,
mistakes of the understanding, false views which you
wanted knowledge enough, truth enough to correct.
"Exemplary punishment is necessary " so they say
But no, 'tis exemplary reformation. *
Anna and Henley are married, of course. The
book ends, not with a sudden conversion -of Clif-
ton to the principles of altruism Holcroft is
far too wise for that but with his acknowledg-
ment of an unwilling respect for these two extra-
ordinary young philosophers. He adds, however,
with a touch of his old spirit :
These wise people should leave us fools to wrangle,
be wretched, and cut each others throats as we list,
without intermeddling; 'tis dangerous. But Truth is
a zealot; Wisdom will be crying in the streets; and
Folly meeting her seldom fails to deal her a blow.
Hazlitt's criticism of this novel is worth noting:
Of the difficulty of exhibiting the passions under the
control of virtue, religion, or any other abstract
principle, let those judge who have studied the
romances of Richardson. 2 To have made Clarissa
a natural character with all her studied attention to
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. vii., p. 250. Ibid. vol. vii., p. 120.
70 The French Revolution
prudence, propriety, etc., is the greatest proof of his
genius. Yet even she is not free from affectation.
In Sir Charles Grandison, he has completely failed. x
This is a comparison which we cannot altogether
admit. Anna's social idealism is heaven-high
above the prudence of Clarissa as a controlling
virtue. Moreover, Anna and Frank are much
less enhaloed by the author than their prototypes
in Richardson. One feels that this is the criticism
of the age of Reaction, which worshipped prudence
and propriety, but was inclined to think that
after all there was something rather commendable
in having perfectly undisciplined emotions. 2
Holcroft's next novel, Hugh Trevor, is much
less open to the charge of exhibiting virtuous
abstractions. 3 In fact, Hazlitt's criticism here is
just the reverse. He has to defend Holcroft from
the charge of too great realism and satire.
As a political work [he says] it may be considered
as a sequel to Anna St. Ives; for as that is intended
to develop certain general principles by exhibiting
imaginary characters, so the latter has a tendency to
enforce the same conclusions by depicting the vices
1 Hazlitt carries this comparison a step further; Clifton and
Lovelace are the same being, and are often placed in situations so
similar that the resemblance must strike the most cursory reader.
Memoirs of Holcroft, vol. ii., p. 107.
a An age, for instance, that was shocked by the opinions of
Shelley, while it revelled in the heroes of Byron.
J Published 1794 to 1797.
And the English Novel 71
and distresses which are generated by the existing
institutions of society. 1
The hero is not introduced to us here with prin-
ciples already formed. We are allowed to watch
an ambitious, hot-headed youth, with more aspi-
rations than judgment, while he learns prudence
through weary years of disillusionment. But
this novel is in no sense a recantation. The
social idealism that remains to Hugh Trevor in
the end is the same as that of Frank Henley.
Hugh Trevor's childhood is drawn from Hoi-
croft's own. a But Trevor is adopted by his wealthy
grandfather and sent to Oxford. He takes the
university life with exaggerated seriousness ; finally
falls under the influence of Methodism; is seen
at a meeting of that sect by the university author-
ities, and rusticated for a year in consequence.
The account of Methodism as Holcroft saw it is
The want of zeal in prayer and every part of reli-
gious duty, the tedious and dull sermons heard in the
churches, and what Methodists call preaching them-
selves and not their Saviour, were the frequent topics
of our animadversion.
This was a doctrine most aptly calculated to in-
flame an imagination like mine, which was ardent and
enthusiastic. Besides, it relieved me from a multitude
1 Memoirs of Holcroft, vol. ii., p. 134.
3 Perhaps there is more of autobiography in this novel than
these early incidents. Hugh Trevor's life is not Holcroft's, but
the progress of his mental development seems not dissimilar.
72 The French Revolution
of labours. For as I proceeded, Thomas Aquinas and
his subtilizing competitors were thrown by in con-
tempt. I had learned divinity by inspiration, and
soon believed myself fit for a reformer. The philoso-
pher Aristotle with his dialects and sophisms was ex-
changed for the philosopher Saint Paul, from whom I
learned that he who had saving faith had everything,
and he who wanted it was naked of all excellence as a
new born babe. To these mysteries which all the
initiated allow are suddenly unfolded, descending like
lightning by inspiration of the Spirit and illuminating
the darkened soul, to these mysteries no man was
ever a more combustible kind of convert than myself.
I beamed with gospel light. It shone through me. I
was the beacon of this latter age; a comet sent to
warn the world. I mean, I was all this in my own
imagination, which swelled and mounted to the very
acme of fanaticism.
But although Trevor refused to recant under
pressure, he admits afterwards:
My dereliction of intellect was of short duration,
my attachment to Methodism daily declining and at
last changing into something like aversion and horror. *
During his year of rustication, Trevor goes to
London as secretary to the Earl of Idford, a young
lord of the minority party, who says he is "a
friend to the philosophy of the times, and would
have every man measured by the standard of
1 Hugh Trevor, vol. i., p. 154-!
And the English Novel 73
These liberal sentiments [says Holcroft] were de-
livered on the first visit he received from the leader
>f the minority. I Anger, self-interest and the desire of
revenge had induced him to adopt the same political
principles; anger, self-interest, and. the desire of re-
venge had induced him to endeavour after the same
elevation of mind. Esop is dead, but his frog and his
ox are still to be found. 2
Holcroft was perfectly aware of the motives
affecting many of the followers of the new philo-
sophy. He would have been the first to admit
that Lucas's satire was not without foundation
in fact. 3 The Earl of Idford and Lord Marauder
are close akin.
Trevor also gets an introduction to a bishop,
and in a furious fit of orthodoxy, writes a " Defence
of the Thirty Nine Articles." The bishop invites
him to a dinner (of which Holcroft gives a highly
satirical account), 4 and proposes to print this
polemic under his own name. Trevor replies
by denouncing the amazed bishop, and rushes
away, shocked at the discovery that all Church-
men are not worthy of reverence. s
1 Probably Fox. * Hugh Trevor.
3 Cf. discussion of The Infernal Quixote, in Chapter V. of this
* Holcroft often satirizes the intemperance of his time in the
matter of eating and drinking. Simple to the point of austerity
in his own tastes, he had a fastidious disgust for all forms of self-
* As we have quoted Holcroft's account of Methodism, we
may also examine his views on orthodoxy, in the person of the
74 The French Revolution
Trevor has written in the Earl's name a series
of political letters, opposing the ministry. At
about this time the Earl comes to terms with the
ministry, deserts the minority party, and wishes
Trevor to change the tone of his letters accordingly.
Trevor replies indignantly that "when he wrote
against the minister it was not against the man,"
and that he " cannot hold the pen of prostitution."
So end all his prospects, and his faith that church-
men and statesmen are ex officio superior to
There is something so winning in the very
blunders of this hot-headed young idealist that
one is willing to excuse his melodramatic rant on
the ground of his extreme youth. But Holcroft
does not spare him. He comments :
And yet, when the Earl, had asked me to write
letters that were supposed by the public the produc-
tion of his own pen, I had then no such qualms of
conscience. When deceit was not to favour but to
counteract my plans, its odious immorality rushed
upon me. T
bishop. "He was so sternly orthodox as to hold the slightest
deviation from Church authority in abhorrence. What he meant
by Church authority, or what any rational man can mean, it
might be difficult to define; except that Church authority and
orthodox opinions are, with each individual, those precise points
which that individual makes part of his creed. But as, unfor-
tunately for Church authority, no two individuals ever had or
ever can have the same creed, Church authority is like a body in
motion. No man can tell where it rests. " (Hugh Trevor, vol. i.,
1 Hugh Trevor, vol. ii., p. 24.
And the English Novel 75
There is in London an old schoolmate of Trevor's
named Turl, who was expelled from the Univer-
sity for heresy, and is earning a contented liveli-
hood as an engraver. Trevor rushes to him in
an agony of rage and disillusionment, and tells
him his plans for exposing Bishop and Earl in a
scathing pamphlet. Turl calmly replies, Trevor
was a fool to expect a lord to be more honourable
or a bishop more righteous than other men. As
for exposing them he adds, even if it could be
"You will be to blame you may be better em-
"What! than in exposing vice?"
"The employment is petty; and what is worse, it is
inefficient. Such attacks are apt to deprave both the
assailant and the assailed. They begin in anger, con-
tinue in falsehood, and end in fury. I repeat, you
may be better employed, Mr. Trevor." 1
Trevor returns to Oxford, but the Earl of Idford
manages to have him expelled without a degree.
He learns that the bishop has actually published
the polemic as his own, without the writer's con-
sent. Trevor alienates the sympathy he might
have had in the University at large by his vio-
lent and incoherent attack on both Bishop and
Almost penniless, Trevor returns to London and
devotes himself to writing a pamphlet denouncing
1 Hugh Trevor, vol. ii., p. 65.
76 The French Revolution
Earl, Bishop, and University. Turl again tells
him he is in the wrong ; that his troubles are more
than half due to his own ungoverned temper;
and finally that it is absurd to blame the whole
structure of society because his own individual
happiness and ambition have been thwarted.
There are, indeed, wrongs and injustices in the
world which men must not pass by in silence. Speak,
but speak to the world at large, not to insignificant
individuals: Speak in the tone of a benevolent and
disinterested heart, not of an inflamed and revengeful
imagination. Otherwise you endanger yourself and
injure society. r
Another friend of Trevor's, Wilmot, after
wretched years of hack writing at starvation pay 2
attempts suicide. Turl rescues him from the
river, and tries to bring him to a truer sense of
the value of life. This passage is so characteristic
of Holcroft's philosophy that it is worth quoting
You demand that I should communicate to you a
desire of life. Can you have a perception of the
essential duties you are fitted to perform, and dare
you think of dying?
You have been brooding over your own wrongs,
which your distorted fancy has painted as perhaps the
most insufferable in the whole circle of existence!
1 Hugh Trevor, vol. ii., p. 172.
2 Holcroft describes this very vividly. He knew it from ex-
And the English Novel 77
How can you be so blind? Look at the mass of evil
by which you are surrounded! What is its origin?
Ignorance. Ignorance is the source of all evil: and
there is one species of ignorance to which you and
men like you have been egregiously subject; ignorance
of the true mode of exercising your rare faculties;
ignorance of their unbounded power of enjoyment.
You have been persuaded that this power was
destroyed by the ridiculous distinction of rich and
poor. Oh mad mad world! Monstrous absurdity!
Incomprehensible blindness! Look at the rich! In
what are they happy? In what do they excel the
poor? Not in their greater store of wealth; which is
but a source of vice, disease and death ; but in a little
superiority of knowledge, a trifling advance towards
truth. How may this advantage be made general?
Not by the indulgence of the desires you have fostered
but by retrenching those false wants that you panted
to gratify; and thus giving leisure to the poor, or
rather, to all mankind, to make the acquirement of
knowledge the grand business of life.
Holcroft is quite aware of his opponents' answer
to such an ideal, and supplies it: "The self-denial
you require is not in the nature of man." To
which Turl gives his answer: "The nature of man
is senseless jargon. Man is that which he is made
by the occurrences to which he is subjected." 1
Trevor becomes acquainted with an eccentric
philanthropist, Mr. Evelyn, who, struck by a
certain honesty of intention under all Trevor's
1 Hugh Trevor, voL ii., 280 .
78 The French Revolution
mistakes, offers to help him to enter some pro-
fession where he can be of real service to society.
The passage in which Mr. Evelyn explains his
views of the times is more than any other passage,
perhaps, an answer to the charge that Holcroft
countenanced the violent factions of his time.
It is the moral system of the time [he says], that
wants reforming. This cannot be suddenly produced,
nor by the effort of any individual; but it may be
progressive, and every individual may contribute:
though some more powerfully than others. The rich,
in proportion as they shall understand their power and
their duties, may become peculiarly instrumental; for
poverty, by being subjected to continual labour, is
necessarily ignorant ; and it is well known how danger-
ous it is for ignorance to turn reformer.
Let the rich therefore awake. They are not, as
they have long been taught to suppose themselves,
placed beyond the censure of the multitude. It is
found that the multitude can think, and have dis-
covered that the use that the wealthy often make of
what they call their own is unjust, tyrannous, and
destructive. The spirit of inquiry is abroad. But
when they expect to promote peace and order by irri-
tating each other against this or that class of men,
however mistaken those men may be, and by dis-
seminating a mutual spirit of acrimony between
themselves and their opponents, they act like mad-
men; and if they do not grow calm, forgiving, and
kind, the increasing fury of the mad many will over-
take them. *
1 Hugh Trevor, vol. iv., p. 93 f.
And the English Novel 79
Holcroft knew, as few literary men did, what
forces were stirring below the surface of the social
order. He calls upon the so-called upper classes
to set their own house in order, lest a worse thing
befall them. His faith in the saving power of
social idealism was not in spite of his knowledge
of the world, but because of it.
Hugh Trevor, having reluctantly consented to
accept financial aid from Mr. Evelyn for a time,
the question of a profession for him is discussed.
The law is decided upon, as giving rare opportu-
nities for serving society by uprightness. Trevor
accordingly goes to London to read law. Gradu-
ally he becomes convinced that, however noble
and necessary law may be in theory, in practice
it is a mass of chicanery. Very regretfully he
tells Mr. Evelyn that for him the way of service
does not lie in the practice of law.
Mr. Evelyn has a relative, Sir Barnard, who
has the disposal of two seats in Parliament. One
of these he occupies himself, and the other he gives
to some young man who will vote as he does, i. e.,
in opposition to the ministry. Trevor is, of course,
of the minority party from conviction; so he
accepts Sir Barnard's offer of a seat and is duly
elected. During the pre-election canvassing he
finds himself forced into many practices of which
he cannot approve. There are no money bribes;
but he is expected to make valuable presents to the
voters. He develops a considerable gift of oratory,
however, and Sir Barnard is delighted with him.
8o The French Revolution
In London, the young M.P. attends a banquet
where he meets his old enemies, the Earl of Idford
and the Bishop. Idford is worn with dissipation,
and the Bishop is aged by his life of self-indulgence
and petty intrigues for power. As Trevor looks
at them all traces of his old hatred vanish and
give place to a deep sadness that these men
should have so missed the durable satisfactions
Trevor's career in Parliament comes to an ab-
rupt end. Sir Barnard had opposed the ministry
only from pique at being refused a baronetcy.
This being granted him he suddenly changes sides,
and on Trevor's indignant refusal to follow him,
a violent quarrel ensues. Unfortunately, Trevor's
patron, Mr. Evelyn, is dead; Sir Barnard has in-
herited his estate. Trevor had insisted on giving
a note for all the money he received. This note
comes into the hands of Sir Barnard, who uses
it to have Trevor imprisoned for debt. Trevor
might plead exemption from arrest, as an M.P.,
but he feels bound in honour to resign as soon as
he can no longer vote as Sir Barnard wishes.
Trevor accepts imprisonment quietly. But
help comes from unexpected quarters. A man
who has cheated him out of a large sum of money,
compelled to an unwilling respect for his principles,
makes restitution. Soon after, a legacy makes
Trevor comparatively wealthy, and he marries
Olivia, one of the most charming of Revolutionary
heroines, whose lifelong love for him has woven
And the English Novel 81
a thread of romance through this somewhat over-
By way of criticism we can perhaps do no better
than to give Holcroft's own comment on a French
review of the book. x
Read a criticism in La Decade Philosophigue on a
French translation of Hugh Trevor, containing great
praise and some pointed blame. The chief articles of
the latter are, that the plan proposed is incomplete,
(true), that some of the conversations are too long
(true), that my satire on professions is unfounded
(false), that I have not put my morality sufficiently
into action (false again, the law part excepted), that
probability is not quite enough regarded (perhaps not) ,
and that, to make Trevor so suddenly a wealthy man
is entirely in the novel style (true; blamable). The
following are the concluding remarks: "Malgre ces
defauts qu'on peut reprocher, comme nous 1'avons vu,
beaucoup de romans, celui-ci merite assurement
d'etre distingue" par la justesse des observations, la
verite des tableaux et des caract&res, le naturel du
dialogue, la peinture exacte des mceurs et des ridicules.
En un mot, c'est 1'ouvrage d'un homme de talent,
d'un observateur habile et exercice, d'un ami des
mceurs et de la vertu; disons encore d'un e'criyain
patriote, hardi de"fenseur des droits sacre"s du peuple,
et de telles productions sont toujours faites pour 6tre
bien accueillies. "
Holcroft had to go outside of his own country
for a just estimate of his work. The praise of
1 Memoirs, vol. iii., pp. 134 f.
82 The French Revolution
this French critic is well deserved. We are con-
cerned here with novels as an expression of ideas
rather than from the standpoint of literary excel-
lence; but it may not be amiss to observe that of
all the novels here considered those of Holcroft
are the only ones whose obscurity is in any way to
For the last of his novels, The Memoirs of Brian
Perdue (1805), Holcroft has chosen the favourite
theme of humanitarian radicals: the evils of the
English penal system. In this he shows himself
truly a representative Revolutionist, for no other
form of social injustice so appealed to imaginations
quickened by the new ideas. From Caleb Williams
to The Prisoner of Chilian there was a continuous
stream of literature inspired by the wrongs of
the criminal and the convict. It might almost
be said that the injustice and cruelty of social
punishment is a corollary of the Virtuous Outlaw,
dear to Sentimentalists. We shall encounter both
themes frequently in the fiction under discussion.
Holcroft's novel directed against frequent and
indiscriminate capital punishment shows his char-
acteristic moderation. The subject is one on
which he as an "acquitted felon" was peculiarly
entitled to a hearing. The true source of Brian
Perdue is not the Sentimentalists' Virtuous Outlaw,
but Holcroft's own experience when he was on
trial for his life eleven years before.
The purpose and method in Brian Perdue are
best stated in the author's own words:
And the English Novel 83
Whenever I have undertaken to write a novel I have
proposed to myself a specific moral purpose. This
purpose, in the present work [is], to induce all
humane and thinking men, such as legislators ought to
be and often are, to consider the general and adventi-
tious value of human life, and the moral tendency of
To exemplify this doctrine it was necessary that
the hero of the fable should offend those laws, that
his life should be in jeopardy, and that he should
possess not only a strong leaven of virtue, but high
powers of mind, such as to induce the heart to shrink
at the recollection that such a man might have been
legally put to death. 1
There is little in the development of this theme
that merits especial attention. There are signi-
ficant attacks upon the ruthless and unscrupulous
methods of the rising capitalist class; there are
some characteristic pleas for tolerance, for for-
bearance in dealing with those whose opinions
seem to us mistaken ; for the rest, Holcroft reverts
in style to his eighteenth-century models. He
digresses in passages of Addisonian reflection,
interlarded sometimes with Sterne-like whimsi-
calities. Now and again he indulges in conscious
neo-classical "beauties," or attempts somewhat
laboured satire after the manner of Pope.
The reason is not far to seek. Holcroft is
writing as an old man, with a meditative detach-
ment impossible in the stirring days that inspired
1 Holcroft, Brian Perdue, Preface, p. i.
84 The French Revolution
his earlier novels. Freed from youthful urgency
in defence of a losing cause, he becomes more of
a conscious artist in his attitude. Unfortunately
for Brian Perdue, it is not Holcroft's mannered
and mediocre artistry that appeals to us now, but
the sincere and gentle personality of the author
We have called Holcroft a representative
Revolutionist. But it will be observed how sel-
dom in his works we find specific mention of the
Revolutionary philosophies. Once, in Anna St.
Ives, the hero is seen reading the Nouvelle Helo'ise;
he half apologizes for it, adding, "I think I know
what were the author's mistakes." 1 Again, we
have Holcroft's own comment on Political Justice,
that : "The book was written with good intentions,
but to be sure nothing could be so foolish." 2
These are the only direct evidences we have of
his Revolutionary reading.
This does not mean of course, that Holcroft
was not influenced by the new philosophies. His
intimate association with the Revolutionists in
London literary circles and his connection with
the Society for Constitutional Information would
insure his being acquainted with all the radical
ideas afloat, at second hand, if not from his own
What it may indicate is, that Holcroft's social
idealism was less associated in his mind with
1 Anna St. Ives, vol. iv., p. 154.
Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 116.
And the English Novel 85
metaphysical conceptions of Reason and Justice
or with the political crisis in a neighbouring coun-
try than with his intimate knowledge of the social
conditions in his own. For Holcroft knew the
life of his time at first hand, whatever may have
been the case with its philosophies. The profes-
sion of actor-dramatist has shown itself a good
school of observation since the days of the Mer-
maid Tavern. And probably no other writer
among the Revolutionists knew from personal
experience so many layers of society; from the
life of a stable boy to the choicest literary circles
of London, with a trial for High Treason thrown
Holcroft's Revolutionism, then, may be taken
as representative, not alone of a small group of
closet-philosophers, but of the more vitalizing
currents of social idealism which had their source
in the social unrests of the time.
SECTION I: WILLIAM GODWIN
AMONG our philosophical novelists the second
in order of time (and, to my mind, also in
order of importance), is William Godwin. As we
have already observed, there has been a decided
tendency, especially among critics somewhat
hostile to political idealism, to regard him as the
central figure of the entire movement; an inter-
pretation which greatly simplifies the task of dis-
missing the Revolutionists as a group of amiable
fanatics. If, therefore, the present discussion
seem to minimize his originality and underestimate
his influence, there will be found no lack of com-
mentators who do him justice.
William Godwin 1 was the son of a dissenting
minister, of Cambridgeshire. The account God-
win gives of his father is, as Paul says, "amusing
and characteristic." 2 "Aiming at the most scru-
pulous fairness he succeeds only in giving a very
distinct impression that he had but little love for
1 William Godwin, born 1756, died 1836.
a Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 7.
The English Novel 87
his father and no very high opinion of his mental
powers." I Godwin's early reading consisted prin-
cipally of books of sermons, the Pilgrim's Progress,
and the Pious Deaths of many Godly Children.
In this "hotbed of forced piety" he grew up a
precocious, self-conscious child, whose most char-
acteristic features were, as he says himself, "reli-
gion and the love of distinction." 2
Godwin's schooling was regular, and the in-
struction probably somewhat above the average;
but not of a sort to counteract his unwholesome
childhood. His principal teacher, by whom he
was greatly influenced, was, as he tells us, "a dis-
ciple of the supra-Calvinistic opinions of Robert
Sandeman." 3 In consequence, we hear later of
the boy Godwin being rejected from Homerton
Academy on the suspicion of Sandemanian heresy.
In 1773 he entered Hoxton College. We have his
own account of his interests during the five years
he spent there :
During my academical life, and from this time
forward, I was indefatigable in my search after truth.
I read all the authors of greatest repute for and against
the Trinity, original sin, and the most disputed doc-
trines; but I was not yet of an understanding sufficient-
ly ripe for impartial discussion, and all my inquiries
1 Paul adds a significant passage from Godwin's account of his
mother: "After her husband's death her character became con-
siderably changed; she surrendered herself to the visionary hopes
and tormenting fears of the methodistical sect. "
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. i., p. 9. 3 Ibid., vol. i., p. 13.
88 The French Revolution
terminated in Calvinism. I was famous in our college
for calm and impassionate discussion. For one whole
summer I rose at five and went to bed at midnight,
that I might have sufficient time for theology and
metaphysics. I formed during this period from
reading on all sides a creed upon materialism and
immaterialism, liberty and necessity, in which no
subsequent improvement of my understanding has
been able to produce any variation. 1
Soon after this began Godwin's friendship with
Joseph Fawcett, another young dissenting minister,
"one of whose favourite topics was a declamation
against the domestic affections, a principle which
admirably coincided with the dogmas of Jonathan
Edwards, whose works I had read a short time
before." 2 It will be remembered that Godwin
ranks Joseph Fawcett first among the four oral
instructors to whom he acknowledges particular
indebtedness; the others being Holcroft, George
Dyson, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
After a few not altogether successful years as
a dissenting minister and tutor, Godwin went to
London and became a political writer for the
liberal side, contributing regularly to the official
organs of Fox and Sheridan. Of the progress
of his opinions during these years he has, as
usual, left us a careful record. He was always
deeply interested in the processes of his own
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. i., p. 15. ' Ibid. vol. i., p. 17.
And the English Novel 89
In 1782 I believed in the doctrine of Calvin The
Systeme de la Nature, read about the beginning of that
year, changed my opinions and made me a Deist. I
afterwards veered to Socinianism, in which I was
confirmed by Priestley's Institutes, in the beginning of
1783. I remember having entertained doubts in 1 785 ,
when I corresponded with Priestley. But I was not a
complete unbeliever until I787. 1
Godwin's life thenceforward was that of the
typical London literary man of the period. He
attended the Constitutional and Revolutionary
societies, was intimate with Holcroft, Coleridge,
and Lamb, and acquainted with the rest of the
Revolutionary circle. There is hardly a name of
literary, philosophical, or theatrical interest that
does not appear in his diary.
The publication of Political Justice (1793)
raised Godwin at once to a position of recognized
eminence among the radical thinkers of the time.
We shall see (in the next chapter) that the literary
opponents of Revolutionism seized upon Political
Justice as embodying the very essence of the radical
heresies, the accepted creed of democratic opinion.
But it will be observed that practical statesmen
saw more danger in Paine's popular discussions,
and Holcroft's gentle appeals to an awakening
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. i., p. 26. "Unbeliever" is not to be taken
in an extreme sense here. Godwin later states that he "finds the
idea of God so easy, obvious, and irresistible as instantly to
convert mystery into reason and contradictions into certainty."
As a systematic metaphysician, Godwin never could tolerate any
loose ends in his universe.
9 The French Revolution
social sense, than in all the metaphysical subtleties
of Godwin. It was not pure chance that Holcroft
was brought to trial while Godwin escaped arrest. T
As a matter of fact, it is a mistake to suppose that
Political Justice was at any time accepted by the
Revolutionists themselves as the true and orthodox
presentation of their philosophy. Ample proof
of this is afforded by the opinions Godwin quotes
in his journal (for March 23, 1793) :
Dr. Priestley says my book contains a vast extent
of ability Monarchy and Aristocracy, to be sure,
were never so painted before he admits all my
principles, but cannot follow them into all my con-
clusions Home Tooke tells me my book is a bad
book, and will do a great deal of harm Holcroft had
previously informed me, that he said the book was
written with good intentions, but to be sure nothing
could be so foolish. 2
The latter part of Godwin's life need not detain
us. In 1797 he married Mary Wollstonecraft. 3
Within the year she died, leaving two children
.under his care. By this time Godwin's views on
jthe political injustice of marriage were completely
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. i., p. 80. Political Justice escaped prose-
cution because of the expensive form in which it was published.
Pitt is said to have observed, when the question was debated in
the Privy Council, that "a three guinea book could never do
much harm among those who had not three shillings to spare. "
The wily Pitt was perfectly aware of the distinction between
the philosophy of the study and the propaganda of social unrest.
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. i., p. 116.
J Cf. Chapter VII., Section 2, of this book.
And the English Novel 91
forgotten; he seems to have proposed to half the
literary women of his acquaintance before he was
finally married by a scheming widow with two
children of her own. A son, William Godwin,
junior, was soon added to his responsibilities.
From this time on, the diary and letters form an
ungracious record of financial and domestic diffi-
culties, shabby expediencies, querulous complaints,
squabbles with his friends, fading ideals, and in-
creasing literary obscurity. Not Godwin but the
young Shelley was to be the Light-bearer of political
idealism during the dreary decades of the Reaction.
Such, so far as it need concern us, was the life
of William Godwin. A greater contrast to that
of his friend Holcroft could hardly be imagined.
All his occupations, as student, preacher, tutor,
tended to restrict his experience of life and foster
his natural tendency to introspection. Sur-
rounded from childhood by an atmosphere of
somewhat fussy piety, schooled in metaphysical
and theological hairsplitting, there is small wonder
that such natural common sense and judgment
as he may have had were reduced to a minimum.
The traits which he recognized in himself as a
child "religion and a desire for distinction,"
remained the dominant characteristics of the man.
His "religion" (by which he probably meant his
theological bent; his writings show little trace of
any genuine religious sense), appears in the meta-
physics of Political Justice. The "desire for
distinction" true mark of the egoist became an
9 2 The French Revolution
introspective self-consciousness that intensified
his extreme individualistic philosophy. It is
this latter quality that appears most strongly in
The novels of William Godwin which we shall
consider are six in number. T The first in time, in
merit, and in importance is Caleb Williams. This
was published in the year following Political
Justice, when the author, as he himself tells us,
was still fully in the spirit of that work. The
preface announces it as a novel with a purpose :
It was proposed in the invention of the following
work, to comprehend, as far as the progressive nature
of a single story would allow, a general review of the
modes of domestic and unrecorded despotism by
which man becomes the destroyer of man. If the
author shall have taught a valuable lesson, without
subtracting from the interest and passion by which a
performance of this sort ought to be characterized,
he will have reason to congratulate himself on the
vehicle he has chosen. 2
1 Caleb Williams, or Things as They Are (1794); St. Leon
(1799); Fleet-wood, or The New Man of Feeling (1805); Mande-
ville (1817); Cloudesley (1830); and Deloraine (1833). Godwin
was also the author of a few earlier romances, but they were little
known even in his own time. Paul, his biographer, dismisses
them with a word, and Meyer omits them altogether from the
very comprehensive bibliography appended to his thesis. The
plots of two of them are outlined in Fargeau's Revue des Romans,
vol. i., pp. 284, 285. But they have little significance for our
' Caleb Williams (Frederick Warne ed., not dated), p. I.
And the English Novel 93
The first line strikes a keynote: "My life has
for several years been a theatre of calamity. I
have been a mark for ... etc." Before we
leave Godwin's novels we shall be very familiar
with that mode of introduction. This particular
Jeremiad might serve to begin any one of the others
equally well. Caleb Williams is of humble birth
(a rather unusual circumstance, for our republican
friend Godwin likes to write chiefly about people
of wealth and title) , and has a Rousseauistic educa-
tion, "free from the usual sources of depravity."
He becomes secretary to a Mr. Falkland. Here
ensues a characteristic description of a recluse.
Williams's curiosity being aroused concerning his
employer, a friend obliges him with a hundred
pages or so of information. Falkland was, it
seems, a young man of great talents and liberal
culture (no "child of nature" when we come to
the real hero, observe). He outshines a boorish
neighbour, Tyrrel, thereby arousing in him implac-
able hatred. Falkland is warned against Tyrrel
by a dying friend, Clare, supposedly a portrait
of Godwin's friend Fawcett, but he is unable to
avoid continual entanglements with him, culmin-
ating in a public insult. Almost immediately
afterwards Tyrrel is assassinated. Two of his
tenants are accused and hanged. Falkland is
completely cleared but lives a recluse ever after,
nursing his wounded honour. Here ends Collins's
account. Caleb Williams promptly suspects that
Falkland's trouble is a guilty conscience. His
94 The French Revolution
amateur detective activities culminate when Falk-
land catches him trying to investigate a mysteri-
ous chest. What the chest contained the author
takes no trouble to explain, although it seemed
important enough to Mr. Colman to furnish the
title to the play he based on this story. 1 Like
the writers of Gothic romance, Godwin seems to
think it enough to concoct a riddle; he owes no
answer to his readers. But at all events, Falk-
land suddenly changes his policy, confesses to
Williams, and warns him of the consequences of
his curiosity. Falkland's master passion is a
desire for the world's approbation. He will go
to any lengths to preserve his good name, and he
proposes to keep Williams in his power hence-
forth. After a time, Williams grows nervous and
tries to quit Falkland's service. Then we come to
the point of the story. Williams discovers that
the laws are completely at the service of the power-
ful, and that the very machinery of justice can
be wrested to Falkland's purposes. Falkland
accuses him of theft. Williams 's protestations
of innocence are worthless against a man of
Falkland's position. He is imprisoned pending
This gives Godwin an opportunity for describ-
ing the English penal system, and he makes the
most of it. Here, to my mind, is one of the rare
instances in which Godwin's eloquence rings true.
1 George Colman the Younger, The Iron Chest, cf. Chapter IX.,
Section 2, of this book.
And the English Novel 95
Usually, as we shall see hereafter, he is interested
in emotion for its own sake. He taxes himself
to invent situations that may give occasion for
it. Consequently his elaborate tirades seem to
us utterly insincere and wearisome. Here he is
talking of actual conditions. He writes as a
humane and intelligent observer. And here,
without apparent effort, he attains to real power.
The philosopher and the novelist are forgotten for
the time; the man Godwin writes simply and
understandingly of the lives of men in prison.
He shows us the squalid room, the "prison dirt
that speaks sadness to the heart," the prisoners,
innocent and guilty, condemned and untried,
herded together, the young prisoners learning
their trade from old offenders, the noisy appear-
ance of mirth with ever-present fear beneath, the
horror of the slow, monotonous days in lonely
cells, and the bitterness that enters into the soul
of a man and makes him indeed an enemy of the
society that has so fearfully wronged him. Behind
the clear and forceful words the moral earnestness
of the writer shows plainly. The facts he writes
of, of which he has not told the half, have been
improved since his day. But when he speaks out
against the system he carries us with him not by
force of logic but by the great spirit of humani-
tarianism which belongs to all times.
" Thank God," exclaims the Englishman, "we have
no Bastile! Thank God, with us no man can be pun-
9 6 The French Revolution
ished without a crime ! ' ' Unthinking wretch ! Is that a
country of liberty, where thousands languish in dun-
geons and fetters? Go, go, ignorant fool! and visit
the scenes of our prisons ! witness their unwholesome-
ness, their filth, the tyranny of their governors, the
misery of their inmates! After that, show me the
man shameless enough to triumph, and say, England
has no B as tile ! . . . I have felt the iron of slavery grat-
ing upon my soul. I looked round upon my walls and
forward upon the premature death I had too much
reason to expect; and I said, "This is society. This is
the object, the distribution of justice, which is the
end of human reason. For this sages have toiled, and
midnight oil has been wasted. This!" 1
Williams escapes from prison, and after various
adventures in eluding a relentless pursuit, falls
in with a band of thieves led by a philosophic and
loquacious person named Raymond. The phil-
anthropic brigand, a familiar figure in literature
ever since the days of Robin Hood, was an
especial favourite with the Romanticists. It is
worth remarking that Schiller's Die Rauber had
been translated into English in 1792, just two
years before the publication of Caleb Williams.
It may also be remembered that notes for a treat-
ment of Eugene Aram in that character were
found among Godwin's papers. 3 Raymond pro-
tects Williams, recognizing in him a victim of
tyranny. But Godwin's treatment of the brigand
is only half sympathetic. He had no notion of
1 Caleb Williams, p. 80. 3 Paul, Godwin, vol. ii., p. 305.
And the English Novel 97
changing society by isolated individual rebellions,
and he believes in an appeal to reason rather than
In one of the brigands Williams makes an
enemy who adds an element of personal animosity
to the powers of the law in tracking him down.
After a prolonged chase, Williams suddenly turns
the tables. He boldly accuses Falkland of mur-
der, and they are brought face to face before a
court. There the unexpected happens. Wil-
liams's purpose fails on seeing how broken Falk-
land is, and he declares himself a miserable wretch.
Whereupon Falkland confesses his crime, clears
Williams, and dismisses him, not to live happily
ever after, but to be a prey to remorse.
Such is the story of Caleb Williams, and such,
too, is the measure of Godwin as a novelist. He
never equalled his first attempt. Most of his
later novels are here in germ; situations, ideas, and
characters repeat themselves again and again.
He searches laboriously for original plots and
explains conscientiously in his prefaces. For his
was not a facile vein.
Caleb Williams had an immediate success,
arousing a storm of conflicting criticism. It was
recognized as one of the significant novels of the
time. It appeared almost immediately in French
and German translations. But there were some
dissenting voices. Godwin's friend James Mar-
shall declares "the incidents ill chosen, the
characters unnatural, distorted, everything on
98 The French Revolution
stilts, the whole uninteresting." 1 Mrs. Inchbald,
another intimate friend, herself a novelist, finds
it sublimely horrible, captivatingly frightful." 2
Hazlitt (On English Novelists) is more discrimi-
There is little knowledge of the world [he says],
little variety, neither an eye for the picturesque nor a
talent for the humorous in Caleb Williams; but you
cannot doubt for a moment of the originality of the
work and the force of the conception. The impression
made upon the reader is the exact measure of the
author's genius. 3
Later commentators are apt to be still more
cautious. De Quincey, reviewing Gilfillan's pane-
gyrics on the book, says: "Other men of talent
have raised Caleb Williams to a station among the
first rank of novels, while others, amongst whom
I am compelled to class myself, see in it no merit
of any kind." 4
Finally, Sir Leslie Stephen voices the criticism
of our own time:
Caleb Williams can still be read without the pressure
of a sense of duty. It has lived tho' in comparative
obscurity for over a century and must have had
some of the seeds of life. Mysterious crimes are always
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. ii., p. 90. 2 Ibid., vol. i., p. 139.
3 Hazlitt, Collected Works (1902), vol. viii., p. 130.
* De Quincey, Biographical Essays (Fireside ed.), vol. vi., p.
And the English Novel 99
interesting. But given the situation, and shutting
our eyes to impossibilities Godwin shows the kind of
power manifested by Political Justice. *
Pressure of public interest aroused by Caleb
Williams, to some extent forced Godwin to continue
his career as a novelist. There is a certain note
of hesitancy in the preface to St. Leon, however,
that suggests that he dimly felt his own limitations.
I was solicited to try my hand again in a work of
fiction. I hesitated long. I despaired of finding a
topic again so rich of interest and passion. At length,
after having passed some years in diffidence and irreso-
lution, I ventured on the task. It struck me that if I
could "mix human feelings and passions with in-
credible situations," I might thus attain a sort of
novelty that would conciliate the patience, at least, of
some of the severest judges. 2
The "incredible situation" he has hit upon is
nothing less than the possession of the Philoso-
pher's Stone and the Elixir of Life. It is only fair to
observe, however, that the subject was in God-
win's time neither so remote from public interest
nor so hackneyed as it would be to-day. In the
second half of the eighteenth century the "Brother-
hood of the Rosy Cross" had been revived, and
professed to have the Stone and Elixir in its pos-
session. The exploits of Count Cagliostro who
gave himself out as their agent were common talk
1 Leslie Stephen, Studies of a Biographer, vol. iii., p. 121.
1 St. Leon, vol. i., p. 2.
ioo The French Revolution
within the memory of Godwin. Further, Godwin
was the first of his contemporaries to treat the
subject, which had enough life in it to furnish
material later for Shelley's St. Irvine and Bulwer's
Zanoni, Strange Story, and a host of others.
Godwin's treatment is, briefly, as follows:
Count St. Leon is a youth of great promise. He
conducts himself with gallantry in battle, takes
a picturesque part at the Field of Cloth of Gold,
and proves himself, in short, quite the proper
hero for a novel. After a brief whirl of dissipa-
tion also quite the proper thing for a hero he
reforms and marries Marguerite de Damville,
supposedly intended for a portrait of Mary
Wollstonecraft. Really she is somewhat more
lifelike than most of the "exemplary females"
who serve as the pegs upon which Godwin hangs
his love scenes. The ensuing period of domestic
bliss is broken up when St. Leon goes to Paris to
put his son in a school (shades of Emile! what
heresy! Could he not afford a tutor?) and inci-
dentally loses all his fortune at cards. Marguerite
arrives at the critical moment to wind up her
husband's affairs for him while he indulges in a
fit of insanity. The couple moralize exhaustively
on the compensations of poverty (Godwin had
tried it too often himself to have any delusions
as to its advantages), and betake themselves
to Switzerland, beloved of Romanticists for its
scenery and of Republicans for its government.
Here they settle down quite resignedly until their
And the English Novel 101
property is destroyed by a storm. Thereupon
they are forcibly driven away by the inhabitants.
Just why is not clear; but mark the tyranny of
even a republican government. They find an-
other home where they enjoy seven years of do-
mestic happiness. Godwin really does these little
Swiss Family Robinson scenes very well. His
own happy married life had awakened his latent
domesticity. He was genuinely fond of child-
ren; no man who was not could have written
the preface to Baldwin's Fables.
To this model family comes a mysterious stranger
who imparts to St. Leon the secret of eternal
youth and unlimited wealth. He insists that St.
Leon must not reveal the process even to his
wife. St. Leon perceives that this will mean the
end of mutual confidence. Again, the reason is
not clear; but the circumstance furnishes oppor-
tunity for extended introspective moralizing.
Calamity after calamity follows, because St.
Leon seems utterly unable to find a plausible
excuse for having money. One becomes exasper-
ated at his inability to construct a good lie. His
son leaves him, his wife dies of grief, he is pursued
from place to place by the fury of mobs. Finally
he settles his daughters on his old estate and starts
out alone, a Byronic hero without the fascination
He falls into the hands of the Inquisition, es-
capes, rejuvenates himself, and sets methodically
about his favourite project of benefiting mankind.
102 The French Revolution
He decides to finance a famine-stricken Hungarian
province. Here follow some very sound economic
reflections on gold actual versus wealth; did ever
alchemist invoke such laws before! It really
begins to look as though St. Leon were going to
do something interesting at last. But like all
Godwin's heroes he is obsessed by the need of
a confidential friend. The man he hits upon,
Bethlem Gabor, is one whose wrongs have made
him an enemy of mankind. Gabor finds St. Leon
rather tiresomely priggish (we cannot blame him)
and imprisons him. After another long interlude of
moralizing St. Leon is freed by his son. This son he
really does manage to benefit by giving a dowry to
his sweetheart, Pandora, another "beauteous fe-
male." Here the book ends ; for no particular rea-
son. But we are too much relieved to care for that.
This novel also was a success, although not so
decidedly as the first. Godwin's friend Holcroft
writes to him :
You have repeated to me times innumerable the
necessity of keeping characters in action and never
suffering them to sermonize, yet of this fault St. Leon is
particularly found guilty by all whom I have heard
speak of the work . . . yet men must have arrived at
an uncommon degree of wisdom when St. Leon shall
be no longer read. 1
I think we are inclined to agree with the first part
of Holcroft's criticism at least, although modesty
1 Paul, Godwin, vol. ii., p. 25.
And the English Novel 103
may forbid us to claim for our own age "an un-
common degree of wisdom." For certainly St.
Leon is no longer read. Hazlitt writes: "St.
Leon is not equal in plot and groundwork to
Caleb Williams, tho perhaps superior to it in
execution." 1 It "ventures into the preternatural
world, and comes nearer the world of common
sense." Later, Shelley, on Godwin's saying that
writing another novel would kill him, replied in a
burst of enthusiasm: "What matter, if we have
another St. Leon! 1 ' 2 But Sir Leslie Stephen calls
it "a semi-historical novel, with all manner of
improbable adventures and coincidences, which
yet contrives to miss the moral." 3 And we are
rather inclined to let it go at that.
In Fleetwood Godwin tries yet a third type of
interest. He says in his preface :
Caleb Williams was a story of very surprising and
uncommon events, but which were supposed to be
entirely within the laws and established course of
nature as she operates in the planet we inhabit. The
story of St. Leon is in the miraculous class, and its
design to "mix human feelings and passions with
incredible situations" 4 and thus render them in-
credible and interesting. The following story consists
of such adventures as for the most part have occurred
to at least half of the Englishmen now existing who
are of the same rank of life as my hero.
1 Hazlitt, Collected Works (1902), vol. viii., p. 131.
J Hazlitt, The English Novel.
s Leslie Stephen, Studies of a Biographer, vol. iii., p. 151,
< Fleetwoodflvol. i., p. v.
104 The French Revolution
Fleetwood is educated among the wild scenery
of Wales in a manner that Wordsworth would
quite approve. He goes to Oxford a perfect young
Rousseauist, naturally benevolent and good, and
full of "sensibility." He gets some of the bloom
knocked off his benevolence in the student life
there. His education finished, he goes to Paris
for the usual period of dissipation, like St. Leon.
Then he looks up an old friend of his father's,
M. Ruffigny,' in Switzerland, of course. This
M. Ruffigny turns out to be a Republican of the
old school, living in a cottage, all virtue and sim-
plicity. He had known Rousseau personally'
the only direct mention of him in these novels.
This sage gives Fleetwood news of the death of
his father. Grief restores him to his original
sensibility. M. Ruffigny tells his own story, per-
haps as human and enjoyable a bit of narrative
as Godwin ever wrote. He was left an orphan
in the care of the traditional wicked uncle, who
appropriates his property and puts the child into
the silk mills in Brussels. The description of the
silk mills is to my mind one of the few really fine
passages in these novels. Here again, as in the
prison passage in Caleb Williams Godwin is
really interested in a situation for its own sake,
not as an excuse for an emotion ; he is looking out,
not in. Godwin was a man who really loved
children, in spite of his dry philosophy. At the
very time he was writing this, there were chil-
dren growing up about him his own little Mary
And the English Novel 105
Wollstonecraft, and the stepchildren of his adop-
tion. He writes of the children in the mills with
a high sincerity and perfect naturalness, for once,
too much in earnest to sentimentalize.
Several of the children appeared to me, judging
from their size, to be under four years of age. I never
saw such children. . . . Some were not tall enough with
their little arms to reach the swift; these had stools
which they carried in their hands, and mounted when
occasion offered. They were all sallow; their muscles
flaccid, and their form emaciated.
The child from the moment of his birth is an ex-
perimental philosopher: and it is equally necessary
for the development of his frame that his thoughts and
his body should be free from fetters. But then he
cannot earn twelve sous a week. These children were
uncouth and ill-grown in every limb, and were stiff
and decrepit in their carriage, so as to seem like old
men. At four years of age they could earn salt to
their bread; but at forty, if it were possible that they
should live so long, they could not earn bread to
But be it so! I know that the earth is the great
Bridewell of the universe, where spirits descended from
heaven are committed to drudgery and hard labour.
Yet I should be glad that our children, up to a certain
age were exempt; sufficient is the hardship and sub-
jection of their whole future life; methinks, even
Egyptian taskmasters would consent that they should
io6 The French Revolution
grow up in peace until they had acquired the strength
necessary for substantial service. 1
More than a hundred years have passed since
Godwin wrote that passage. Much that seemed
to his contemporaries worthy of admiration serve
only to amuse or bore us now. But this is modern.
To our shame be it said, it might be incorporated
as it stands in the next report of the National
Committee on Child Labour.
From this mill the child Ruffigny makes his
escape, and wanders to Versailles in search of the
king a pathetic little figure that Dickens would
have loved. He finds that the king is not as he
had fancied, the father of his people. But he
attracts the notice of Ambrose Fleet wood, grand-
father of our hero, who takes him to England and
brings him up as the companion and equal of
his own son. Ruffigny makes a fortune, saves
his foster-brother from bankruptcy, and retires
to his native country to live, as we found him,
"a Republican of the old model."
At the news of his father's death, Fleetwood
shows his "sensibility," like the typical hero of
the period, by an utter absence of restraint and a
long tirade against the heartless stoicism of any
self-control. Ruffigny accompanies his protege on
his return to England, but, finding him again
drifting into dissipation, leaves him. This effect-
ively sobers Fleetwood. He retires to Wales and
1 Fleetwood, vol. i., pp. 164-68.
And the English Novel 107
"the pleasures of memory and imagination."
But he is lonely: he desires a friend after the
Romantic pattern. For, like most egoists, God-
win's heroes bore themselves fearfully when left
alone. He goes to London and mingles with li-
terary men. At the age of forty, he meets a
delightful family named MacNeil, and falls in
love with the youngest daughter, Mary. The
others go on a voyage and are lost at sea.
Fleetwood marries Mary, whose attractions are
enhanced by her grief and "sensibility." He
resolves to devote himself to consoling her. But
he finds it hard to adjust his old-bachelor ways
to even a well-loved young wife. (Query: is this
autobiography?) He invites two young kins-
men to visit him. One, Kenrick, is virtuous and
lovable; the other, Gifford, is a perfectly conven-
tional stage villain after the model of lago. The
obvious misunderstanding ensues. Gifford con-
trives to make Fleetwood jealous. He banishes
his wife, disinherits his child, and starts divorce
proceedings. Mary protests her innocence and
vows she will never see Fleetwood again. But
matters are cleared up. She forgives him in
spite of her vow, he is properly remorseful, "and
they all lived happily ever after."
Not a very powerful novel, certainly. Godwin
never had the gift of writing of the real doings of
real people so as to make them live and hold our
interest. Nevertheless, to my mind this is one of
the pleasantest of his novels. There is less strain-
io8 The French Revolution
ing after effect, and there are some really likable
people in it; Ruffigny, for instance, and the girl-
In the preface to his next novel, Mandeville
(1817), Godwin gives as his sources Joanna Baillie's
De Montfort and Wieland by C. B. Brown of
Pennsylvania. z There is a historical background
of the time of Cromwell, but it is handled rather
perfunctorily. The story begins with a massacre
in Ireland in which Mandeville's parents are
killed when he is a child of three. He is saved by
his nurse and brought up in the desolate seacoast
manor of a misanthropic invalid uncle. Mande-
ville's tutor is a bigoted Presbyterian clergyman
who trains him in the fear of the Lord and im-
placable hatred of the Catholic Church. Godwin
writes of the horrors of theology from experience.
The dark childhood of the little Mandeville, "who
never was a boy," is drawn with a masterly stroke.
Godwin is a thorough believer in environment as
an influence in the formation of character. He
misses no detail contributing to the gloomy con-
sistency at which he aims. This novel is really
a study in abnormal psychology.
The Reverend Hilkiah's nagging severity
crushes the natural self-confidence of his pupil,
producing in its place a rankling self-conscious
pride. The one bright spot in Mandeville's life
is a visit from his sister who is growing up in a
happier environment. After a time young Man-
1 Preface to Mandeville, p.ix;De Montfort, pub. 1798.
And the English Novel 109
deville is sent to school. Here the results of his
abnormal childhood and unfortunate disposition
appear. His egoism is intense. Behind a mo-
rose and repellent manner festers a morbid self-
consciousness. He is obsessed with a desire for
admiration. A schoolmate, Clifford, wins easily
the popularity Mandeville longs for, and he hates
him with a jealous intensity. He sees the un-
reasonableness of this with painful clearness; but
his hatred becomes a mania. Accidents in-
crease it. Mandeville is falsely accused of having
an anti-royalist book in his possession. Clifford
presides at his trial. Later, at the university
Mandeville is promised a secretaryship to a
royalist leader only to find that the place had
previously been assigned to Clifford.
Mandeville retires from the Cause. To his
diseased imagination it seems that he is perma-
nently disgraced. A fit of madness ensues. He is
nursed to health by his sister who tries to reconcile
him to Clifford. Clifford does all in his power
to humble himself and appease Mandeville. But
circumstances continually throw them together
and Mandeville cannot endure seeing the admira-
tion his rival wins. It soon appears that Clifford
is betrothed to Mandeville's sister. The rest of
the book is a melancholy record of mania. The
climax is reached when with the acuteness of
a deranged mind Mandeville discovers that his
own bride is related to Clifford. His violent re-
proaches cause her death; he goes in search of
no The French Revolution
Clifford and finds him at her grave. They fight,
and both are killed.
So ends a sombre, powerful, tedious novel.
The character of Mandeville is developed with
painfully minute consistency. But we feel that
the author has no right to trouble us with the
psychology of such a person on any terms. The
method is introspection carried beyond the verge
of sanity. It needs the light touch of a Meredith
to anatomize an egoist; even then it is not a
Strange to say, this novel found a warm admirer
in no less a person than Shelley. He writes :
It is of that irresistible and overwhelming kind that
the mind in its influence is like a cloud borne by an
impetuous wind. In style and strength of expression
Mandeville is wonderfully great, and the energy and
sweetness of its sentiments can scarcely be equalled. 1
Though Godwin's last two novels are passed
over by most commentators as mere pot-boilers,
I must confess that I see in them no falling off.
But as the others have been discussed in consider-
able detail, perhaps these two may be somewhat
more briefly treated.
The preface to Cloudsley gives a rather fanciful
statement of its origin :
When I wrote Caleb Williams I considered it as in
some measure a paraphrase on the story of Bluebeard
1 Leslie Stephen, Studies of a Biographer, vol. iii., pp. 138-39.
And the English Novel in
by Charles Perrault. The present publication may
in the same sense be denominated a paraphrase on the
old ballad of the Children in the Wood. I
At first sight it suggests rather a paraphrase on
the Arabian Nights' Entertainment, or on a
Chinese "nest of boxes"; a story within a story
within a story, and all in the first person until one
forgets which "I" is supposed to be speaking.
Briefly, the plot is as follows: Meadows, son
of poor parents, becomes a sailor, is abandoned
in Russia, incurs the enmity of the powers there
by falling in love in the wrong place, is banished,
and comes home looking for employment. Lord
Richard Danvers engages his services for a dan-
gerous mission, with the following confession:
Richard was a younger son ; his elder brother was
killed in a duel, leaving his wife in Richard's care.
She dies at the birth of her son. Richard appro-
priates the estate, giving the child, Julian, to an
accomplice named Cloudsley to be brought up
in obscurity. Richard marries and has four
children. But the children die one after another
of a mysterious curse. Richard is troubled by
his guilty conscience. Meanwhile Cloudsley has
taken Julian to Italy and brought him up as
his own son. But Cloudsley too is troubled with
remorse. He goes to England to remonstrate
with Richard. Julian in his father's absence
quite innocently falls in with a company of ban-
1 Cloudsley, vol. i., p. iv.
ii2 The French Revolution
ditti. (Once more our old friend the philosophic
brigand appears.) These accidentally kill Cloud-
sley on his return.
The mission Lord Danvers assigns to Meadows
is to go in search of Julian and bring him to Eng-
land to restore him to his estate. Meadows
arrives in Italy just in time to save Julian from
being executed with the brigands and brings him
back in triumph. Lord Danvers abdicates in
his favour. Meadows is retained as confidential
The last of Godwin's novels, Deloraine is allied
in its general scheme to the first. It is the story
of a murder and a long and fantastic flight from
the law. Deloraine is a brilliant young nobleman.
After some years of ideal married life his wife
dies and his only daughter, Catherine, goes to live
with friends on the continent. Deloraine falls
in love a second time, with a young woman I
beg her pardon, a "female of exquisite sensibility"
who has been crossed in love. Her accepted
lover William was lost at sea. Deloraine falls in
love with her melancholy, and she marries him
to please her parents. He becomes very unhappy
because his wife does not return his love.
William, the lost lover, was not dead after all.
He appears most inopportunely in search of Mar-
garet. Finding them together, Deloraine in a
fit of insane jealousy shoots William. Margaret
dies of shock (or more properly, of the author's
desire to get her out of the story), and Deloraine
And the English Novel 113
accompanied by his devoted daughter begins a
long flight from justice. Here too the arm of the
law is reinforced by personal vindictiveness. A
friend of William's dedicates himself to aveng-
ing the murder. The chase leads them all over
Europe, into an abandoned castle on the Rhine
in true Gothic romance style, ending only when
Deloraine in despair returns to England to give
himself up. This Catherine prevents by going to
their pursuer and appealing to his reason and mag-
nanimity. This device is as successful as it was in
Caleb Williams. Deloraine is permitted to retire
with his daughter to live in contented obscurity.
Whatever was the secret of the success of these
novels whose road to oblivion was beset by so
many contradictory estimates, it certainly was
not Godwin's ability to tell a story. His plots
are poorly constructed and worse managed. God-
win is in his literary ideas a Sentimentalist; he is
interested in feeling for its own sake. He seems
laboriously to invent a situation merely as a peg
on which to hang an emotional paroxysm. We
are perfectly ready to be interested in a novel of
psychology rather than of incident, if the author
chooses; but even on those terms we feel that the
motivation is inadequate, the emotion insincere,
and the psychology unsound. Godwin's style,
however, we can praise with a clear conscience.
It is clear, direct, easy to read; simple, yet with a
sustained dignity of manner ; the style of a logician
rather than of an artist.
ii4 The French Revolution
In recalling these six novels, one is struck by a
certain similarity of impression. The theme, in
spite of Godwin's conscious efforts not to repeat
himself, does not vary greatly. It has been de-
fined by some of his commentators as "Man, the
enemy of man," or, "The Victim of Society."
I prefer to call it "The Sentimental Individualist,"
or, "The Egoist." The type-hero is usually a
man of considerable talents, all the advantages of
birth and breeding, and a disposition of Rousseau-
istic benevolence. Like all egoists, he is totally
dependent on the approbation of his world. This
takes two forms ; a craving for general admiration,
and the need of a very exclusive and exacting type
of friendship. This latter he speaks of always from
the standpoint of the one receiving, not of the
one giving. Usually he passes through a period
of ideal married life. Caleb Williams is the excep-
tion, of course, being written under the influence
of the ideas in Political Justice. But the next
novel is frankly a recantation of Godwin's earlier
attitude towards domestic life. Before St. Leon
was written, he had married Mary Wollstonecraft
and learned a great many things. Godwin's
characters are all more or less lay figures, with the
possible exception of the type-hero; but women
compare very favourably with the men in point
of reality. They are all tiresomely good and
monotonously beautiful, but occasionally they
show considerable force of character. St. Leon's
Marguerite and Deloraine's Catherine, for in-
And the English Novel 115
stance, take charge of very trying situations and
manage their respective husband and father quite
efficiently. Godwin always succeeds better in
treating domestic affection than in passionate
love episodes. Some of his pictures of married
friendship are rather fine. Surely when Dick-
ens and Scott make most of their heroines prigs,
we may pardon Godwin.
The type-hero puts an end to his own possibility
of happiness by some crime or act of folly, con-
cerning which he moralizes morbidly, but into
which he is forced, apparently by his own nature
when circumstances present the occasion. x The re-
mainder of his life is involved in the consequences,
external and internal. The nature of this domi-
nant characteristic and the resultant act varies.
It is Falkland's obsession of "honour" and his
murder of Tyrrel; Williams's curiosity and his
prying into the chest; St. Leon's desire for wealth
and his acceptance of the stone and elixir; Fleet-
wood's desire to monopolize the entire attention
of his young wife and his yielding to jealousy;
Mandeville's craving for admiration and his
hatred of Clifford; Richard's wish to be Lord
Danvers, and his wrong to his brother's child;
Deloraine's longing for Margaret's love, and his
shooting of William.
In all these cases, be it observed, the type-
hero is not the victim of society primarily, but
of his own character. Godwin's view of society
1 Godwin is a necessarian, with a Calvinist training.
n6 The French Revolution
enters into his novels (excepting of course the
first), only incidentally. Even in Caleb Williams
we should hardly recognize social theory as the
main purpose if it were not for the preface and
the sub-title. But we catch occasional glimpses
of the author of Political Justice. The point
oftenest emphasized is the fallacy of regarding
our judicial system as impartial or just to the
individual. We have already considered the treat-
ment of this subject in Caleb Williams; the same
ideas are glanced at in all the others.
Economic theories are discussed specifically in
one place only: St. Leon's attempt at improving
the condition in Hungary by using his gold as a
lever to start the production of real wealth. But
the Swiss Rufrigny exemplifies in his conduct God-
win's theory of justice in the matter of property
rights. In Political Justice Godwin declares that
the individual's rights over property are of three
sorts: (i) each man has a right to the means of
subsistence, and to that portion of the general
goods which will yield its maximum of pleasure
by being appropriated to his use; (2) he has a
right of stewardship over that property which he
produces; (3) his ownership of property such as
lands, and capital in general is recognized for the
present, because any system is preferable to the
chaos that would ensue if every man appropriated
what he thought he had a right to. Rufrigny,
it will be remembered, makes a fortune by his
own ability and industry, and proposes to retire on
And the English Novel 117
a reasonable income regarding himself as merely
a steward of the rest to be used for others. But
he is satisfied to make over his surplus to a single
individual, his friend, instead, in order that that
friend may continue in the position of a capitalist
to which he is accustomed.
A further point upon which numerous passages
may be found in the novels of Godwin is education.
Here more than ever one catches echoes of a
greater individualist, Rousseau. The child is to
be interested, drawn out; on no account is his
spontaneity to be repressed. But Godwin had
been a fairly successful tutor and had also brought
up children of his own, which Rousseau never did ;
so there are hints of discipline here and there which
would have shocked the author of Entile.
But it is in his general attitude toward culture
that we find the greatest divergence between
Godwin and the pure Rousseauists. Godwin
does not regard civilization as the sole source of
corruption; he cherishes no delusion of the noble
savage in an ideal state of nature. Perhaps his
early Calvinism had eaten into his soul too deeply.
At all events, he is out of harmony with the school
of inspired ignorance, as the following passage
shows; Marguerite tells St. Leon she is reconciled
But she could never bring herself to believe that
ignorance was a benefit. She wished her children
to attain intellectual refinements, possess fully the
n8 The French Revolution
attributes of a rational nature, and be as far removed
as possible from the attributes of stocks and stones,
by accumulating a magazine of thoughts and a rich
and cultivated sensibility. 1
So far, our treatment of Godwin as a novelist
seems to have been devoted entirely to the ungra-
cious task of pointing out his failings. But if it
is true, as Hazlitt says, that: "The impression
made upon the readers is the exact measure of
the author's genius," then we must allow these
novels some tinge of greatness. They have un-
doubtedly in parts a sombre power. They pro-
duce in the reader a sense of oppressive, morose
intensity; a force of individualism verging toward
that evil borderland of reason whereon mania
casts its first faint shadow of unwholesomeness.
The very dullness of the minute introspective
analyses adds to the effect. For there is no depth
of soul-weariness like a Cosmos filled with Ego.
It will doubtless be objected that this very
unsympathetic treatment of William Godwin's
personality leaves unexplained the strong influ-
ence which he undoubtedly exerted over some of
the finest minds of his time. By no means.
William Godwin was a powerful reasoner, with
a gift for clear and forcible argument. Certain
revolutionary principles he found ready to his
hand in the works of earlier French and English
1 St. Leon, vol. i., p. 180.
And the English Novel 119
philosophers. To these he added certain ideas
gathered from theologians like Jonathan Edwards,
and carried the resultant theories to their extreme
conclusions with a grim, irresistible logic. His
only original contribution to Revolutionism was
an unconscious reductio ad absurdum. Never-
theless, Political Justice is an eminently reasonable
book; much more reasonable than life ever is.
Moreover, it is written in a style that carries
conviction. It is only when one deserts the
methods of logic for those of common sense that
its absurdity appears.
This very forcible work might, however, have
remained unknown outside the circle of logic-
chopping metaphysicians but for one important
fact. It came at a time when the age was ready
for it. It was, as we have seen, one of a large
group of books expressing similar philosophies,
all of which found their audience awaiting them.
Of this group Political Justice was the most ex-
treme, though not the most representative. Hence
Political Justice stands alone among William
Godwin's works; a book dominated by rather
than dominating the spirit of the time. It is safe
to say he could not have written it in any other
year. During the period of the Reaction he
employed himself in writing novels which are,
as we have seen, the creatures of literary senti-
mentalism, touched only with an afterglow of
120 The French Revolution
SECTION 2 : THE YOUNG SHELLEY
One does not usually think of Shelley as a
novelist. In fact one is apt not to think of him as
anything but a poet. That is indeed all-inclusive
if one's conception of poetry is high enough. Too
often however poet and thinker are used as sepa-
rate terms, with an implication that to the poet's
imaginative and emotional appeal a sound intel-
lectual basis is unessential. From criticism of
this type no poet, perhaps, has suffered more than
Shelley. In his own time his poetry was con-
demned because of the underlying doctrine, but
at least it was taken seriously. Now criticism
has gone to the other extreme. The poetry is
accepted, the doctrine patronized or apologized
for. We are all so obsessed with Matthew Ar-
nold's fine phrase for Shelley "Beautiful and
ineffectual angel, beating in the void with his
luminous wings in vain" that we quite forget
to listen fairly to what Shelley may have to say
for himself. Perhaps, then, by way of restoring
the balance, it may not be amiss to turn for a little
from Shelley the poet to that younger and almost
unknown Shelley before the publication of Alastor, *
whose work consisted chiefly of radical pamphlets
and prose romances.
1 Alastor, 1816. Shelley's first poetical work with the excep-
tion of the lost juvenilia and Queen Mob, which he afterwards
wished to repudiate. The poet Shelley belongs to a period rather
later than the one under discussion. But Shelley the novelist and
pamphleteer was still living under the shadow of the Revolution.
And the English Novel 121
Only two of the novels of Shelley were com-
pleted: Zastrozzi (1810) and St. Irvyne (1811).
These are of interest chiefly as they may serve
to mark the progress of the poet's mind. They
are extraordinary only as the work of a school-
boy of eighteen. We may perhaps pause for a
moment to summarize them.
The action in Zastrozzi centres in three persons :
Verezzi, a young nobleman ; Matilda, a lady who is
infatuated with him and to whom he is indifferent ;
and Zastrozzi, a mysterious stranger who pursues
Verezzi with relentless hatred. Zastrozzi aids
Matilda to win Verezzi's love by a deception,
using her as the (unconscious) means of reducing
him to despair and suicide. Zastrozzi is seized
by the Inquisition and accepts torture with calm
defiance, saying that his life was dedicated to the
task of avenging on Verezzi a wrong done to his
St. Irvyne, or the Rosicrucian has two plots, very
superficially connected. I. A young lady is cap-
tured by bandits. One of them, Wolf stein, kills
the captain and rescues her. They escape by the
aid of a mysterious stranger, Ginotti, who there-
after possesses a powerful influence over Wolf stein.
It appears that Ginotti possesses the gift of eternal
1 Dr. Hancock (French Revolution and the English Poets, p. 52)
says: " Zastrozzi is his (Shelley's) ideal of a virtuous man. " This
is hardly a fair interpretation. Zastrozzi is merely the conven-
tional villain of the time. He is described as: "A soul deadened
by crime" (Zastrozzi, p. 73), which was hardly Shelley's ideal of
122 The French Revolution
life and can only end his wretched existence by
inducing another to accept it. He imparts the
secret to Wolf stein, but Wolf stein refuses to com-
plete the transaction by "denying his Creator."
Thereupon fiends kill Wolfstein and carry Ginotti
living to eternal torment. 2. The other plot is
merely the story of a girl who has fallen under the
fascination of one Nempere, who, it is explained
at the end, was Ginotti under another name.
Shelley says of these novels in a letter to Godwin
in i8i2 r :
I was haunted with a passion for the wildest and
most extravagant romances. . . . From a reader, I
became a writer of romances ; before the age of seven-
teen I had published two, St. Irvyne and Zastrozzi,
each of which, though quite uncharacteristic of me as
I now am yet serves to mark the state of my mind
at the period of their composition.
Describing the change effected in him by the
reading of Political Justice, he adds :
I was no longer the votary of romance: till then I
had existed in an ideal world now I found that in this
universe of ours was enough to excite the interest of
the heart, enough to employ the discussion of reason.
. . . You will perceive that Zastrozzi and St. Irvyne
were written prior to my acquaintance with your
writings. I had indeed read St. Leon before I wrote
St. Irvyne, but the reasonings had then made little
1 Dowden, Life of Shelley, vol. i., pp. 220-25.
And the English Novel 123
From this it is clear that we need look for no
conscious social theorizing in these early romances.
Both have heroes of a type very common in the
age immediately following the Revolution; the
mysterious defiant outcast from society. This
is the type of titanism which later became some-
what identified in England with the poetry of
Byron. Its source, however, is to be found among
the German Romanticists. Shelley's treatment
of Zastrozzi and Ginotti is in no way character-
istic. At most, they merely indicate the appeal
of this type to a young individualist in a state of
schoolboy revolt against authority.
In this connection a suggestion in Buxton
Forman's preface 1 becomes significant. On the
ground of certain references in letters and certain
internal evidence of phraseology, he believes that
these are not original compositions, but adapta-
tions and translations from the German.
There is mention of several other novels which
were planned and even begun, at about this time.
Among them was "a fragment of wild romance
about a witch," begun in conjunction with Medwin
about the beginning of 1809 and "a novel which
was to be the deathblow to intolerance, projected
at the end of i8io." 2
But the only fragment of unfinished novel which
remains to us is The Assassins, written in Switzer-
land in 1814.
1 Works of Shelley, Forman ed., vol. v., pp. xii .
* Ibid., p. xxvii.
124 The French Revolution
The Assassins are described as an ancient tribe
of Christians driven into exile at the fall of Jeru-
salem. They take refuge in the beautiful valley of
Bethzatanai, where they live for generations in the
loving communism of the Golden Age. Gradually
their religious beliefs are modified, "corresponding
with the exalted condition of their being." They
"esteem understanding to be the paramount rule
of conduct." 1 Shelley comments on the extent
to which the sincere directness of such a people
would be at variance with the time-serving poli-
cies of civilized society. "No Assassin would
submissively temporize with vice and in cold
charity become a pandar to falsehood and desola-
Albedir, a member of this gentle tribe, wander-
ing in the forest finds a man impaled among the
branches of a cedar, and watched by a serpent and
a vulture. He overhears a part of a titanic
The great tyrant is baffled even in success! Joy!
Joy ! to his tortured foe ! Triumph to the worm whom
he tramples under his feet ! . . . Thousands tremble
before thy throne who at my voice shall dare to pluck
the golden crown from thine unholy head ! 3
The Stranger calls to Albedir in a voice "as the
voice of a beloved friend." " In the name of God,
1 Works of Shelley, vol. vi., p. 229. * Ibid., p. 232.
3 Ibid., p. 235
And the English Novel 125
approach. He that suffered me to fall watches
thee; the gentle and merciful spirits of sweet
human love delight not in agony and horror." 1
Albedir bears the stranger to his home and cares
for him tenderly. The fragment ends with a
picture of the two children of Albedir playing by
the lake with a tame serpent. "The girl sang to
it and it leaped into her bosom and she crossed her
fair hands over it as if to cherish it there." 2
In this fragment there are foreshadowings of
Prometheus and of Cythna. Forman says of it :
Intellectual brilliancy, earnestness, great ease in the
use of rhetoric, and an egregious practical energy are
already among the qualities to be credited to Shelley.
But in the A ssassins there is a touch of a new quality,
trace of an infinite yearning over the miseries of
suffering humanity, the divine tenderness which is
eventually and forever the distinguishing charac-
teristic of Shelley. ... In every composition
dating after the middle of the year 1814 a new tone
These novels may be considered as marking the
beginnings and the end of Shelley's early prose
period. Zastrozzi is the work of a precocious boy,
disliking restraint, whose imagination has been
captured by a certain type of titanism in the ro-
mantic literature of the time. With St. Irvyne
the influence of Godwin through St. Leon, if not
1 Works of Shelley, vol. vi., p. 235. * Ibid., p. 242.
s Ibid., vol. v., preface, p. xxii.
126 The French Revolution
through Political Justice, has begun. In The
Assassins, Shelley 'sRevolutionary political theory
is already passing over into a social idealism
whose imaginative and emotional intensity forces
The most significant part of Shelley's early
work however is not the romances but the political
pamphlets. These give explicitly and in its true
proportions the political belief underlying the
In the light of these prose tracts it becomes
apparent that Shelley's political writings fall
into three distinct groups, only one of which is
adequately represented in the poems. I. In the
first group are those writings which form a serious
and coherent expression of Shelley's theory of the
nature and function of government. 2. In addi-
tion to these there are a number of articles and
pamphlets directed against some specific abuse or
in favour of specific reforms. 3. The third class,
consisting chiefly of poems, we may call the expres-
sion of Shelley's social religion. Shelley believed
devoutly in the ultimate perfectibility of humanity
through the principle of universal love, and looked
forward to a time when mankind fulfilling its
highest possibilities might live without restraint.
But be it observed, perfect liberty was to be the
result of moral and spiritual perfection, not
perfection the result of immediate liberty. *
1 This gives the doctrine of Godwin a somewhat different em-
phasis. The nature of Shelley's indebtedness to Godwin, Rous-
And the English Novel 127
In considering any social or political doctrine
of Shelley's it should be made quite clear in which
of these classes it belongs. Shelley is not incon-
sistent. But if his recommendations as to the
most effective method of dealing with the specific
abuses in his own time are to be confused with
his statements of underlying governmental prin-
ciples, or if his impassioned yearning for the
kingdom of heaven on earth is to be perverted
into propaganda for immediate political anarchy,
obviously it will make a considerable difference
in our estimate of the soundness of his judgment.
In this connection it may be well to recall the
character of Shelley given by his friend Jefferson
Hogg (who despised poetry) and endorsed by
another intimate friend, Trelawney, as "the only
written likeness he ever knew of him. ' ' Hogg says :
It was his rare talents as a scholar that drew me to
him. The greatest men are those who compose our
laws, and judges to minister them, and if Shelley had
put all his mind into the study of law, instead of
writing nonsensical rhapsodies, he would have been a
great benefactor to the world, for he had the most
acute intellect of any man I ever knew. x
With this estimate by way of counterbalancing
ancient prejudice against poets in practical affairs
seau, Holbach, Helvetius, and the Encyclopaedists is treated in
some detail by Dr. Hancock in his French Revolution and the
English Poets, chap. v. For this reason all question of sources is
omitted from the present discussion.
1 Trelawney, Records, preface, p. x.
128 The French Revolution
we may consider briefly the three divisions of
Shelley's political theory. Perhaps it may be
well to select one document to represent each
class and let Shelley speak for himself as far as
The fullest expression of Shelley's principles of
government is to be found in the Declaration of
Rights, a broadside printed in Ireland in i8i2. T
Much of this wise and liberal manifesto seems
commonplace now. But many of its passages
are strikingly modern in their application. One
might undertake to find parallels for all of them
in the leading sociological publications of the past
We may quote the most characteristic sections :
Government has no rights. It is a delegation from
several individuals for the purpose of securing their
own. It is therefore just only so far as it exists by their
consent, useful only so far as it operates to their well
The rights of man in the present state of society can
only be secured by some degree of coercion to be
1 "In an article in the Fortnightly Review for January, 1871.
Mr. Rossetti points out the resemblance between this declaration
and two such documents of the French Revolution, the one
adopted by the Constituent Assembly in August, 1789, and the
other proposed in April, 1793, by Robespierre." Works of
Shelley, vol. v., p. 392.
And the English Novel 129
exercised on their violator. The sufferer has a right
that the degree of coercion employed be as slight as
No man has a right to disturb the public peace by
personally resisting the execution of a law however bad.
No man has a right to do an evil thing that good
Expediency is inadmissible in morals. Politics are
only sound when conducted on principles of morality.
They are in fact the morals of nations.
Man has no right to kill his brother. It is no excuse
that he does so in uniform.
No man has a right to monopolize more than he can
Every man has a right to a certain degree of leisure
and liberty, because it is his duty to attain a certain
degree of knowledge. He may before he ought. x
These are the main points insisted upon in the
Declaration of Rights. Twelve of the thirty-one
sections are devoted to the right of perfect freedom
of belief and discussion.
1 Works of Shelley, vol. v., pp. 393-98.
130 The French Revolution
In the same classification may be included the
fragments On A System of Government by Juries
and On Reforms, together with numerous passages
in works belonging primarily to the other groups.
Of the second group, Shelley's propaganda for
specific reforms in his own time, the two Marlow
Pamphlets may be taken as representative. ' The
first of these is A Proposal for Putting Reform to a
Vote Throughout the Kingdom. The closing para-
graph may be quoted as a fair sample of Shelley's
With respect to Universal Suffrage, I confess I con-
sider its adoption, in the present unprepared state of
knowledge and feeling, a measure fraught with peril.
. . . The consequences of the immediate extension
of the franchise to every male adult would be to place
power in the hands of men who have been rendered
brutal and torpid and ferocious by ages of slavery.
. . . Mr. Paine's arguments are unanswerable ; a pure
republic may be shown by influences the most obvious
and irresistible to be that system of social order the
fittest to produce the happiness and promote the
genuine eminence of man. Yet, nothing can less
consist with reason or afford smaller hopes of any
beneficial issue, than the plan which would abolish the
regal and aristocratic branches of our constitution
before the public mind, through many gradations of
improvement, shall have arrived at the maturity
which can disregard these symbols of its childhood.
'Published in 1817, under the signature "The Hermit of
And the English Novel 131
The second of these pamphlets, An Address to
the People on the Death of the Princess Charlotte,
is a noble example of almost lyric eloquence in
dealing with questions of the hour. Shelley
merges the lament for the death of a beloved
princess in the deeper and more solemn lament
for the death of three ignorant workmen executed
on a trumped-up charge of conspiracy through the
machinations of government spies:
Mourn then people of England. Clothe yourselves
in solemn black. Let the bells be tolled. Think of
mortality and change. Shroud yourselves in solitude
and in the gloom of sacred sorrow. Spare no symbol
of universal grief. Weep mourn lament. A beau-
tiful princess is dead, she who should have been the
queen of her beloved nation and whose posterity
should have ruled it forever. Liberty is dead. Slave ! I
charge thee disturb not the depth and solemnity of
our grief by any meaner sorrow. . . . Let us follow the
corpse of British Liberty slowly and reverentially to
its tomb ; and if some glorious phantom should appear
and make its throne of broken swords and sceptres and
royal crowns trampled in the dust, let us say that the
Spirit of Liberty has arisen from its grave and left all
that was gross and mortal there, and kneel down and
worship it as our queen. r
In this group of occasional propaganda belong
An Address to the Irish People (1812), Proposals
for an Association (1812), and A Letter to Lord
Ellenborough Occasioned by the Sentence which he
1 Works of Shettey, vol. vi., p. 113.
132 The French Revolution
Passed on Mr. D. I. Eaton as Publisher of the
Third Part of Paine 1 s "Age of Reason" (1812).
The final phase of Shelley's Revolutionism, his
social faith, finds its complete expression only in
the poems. Shelley was perfectly aware that the
choice of prose or verse as a medium is not a
matter of the writer's caprice but is inherent in the
nature of the idea. He abhorred didactic poetry. x
It is the soul of his Revolutionism that is to be
found in his poems. On our own heads be it if
we forget to look for the body of his practical
teachings where it may be found, in his prose
Chronology assumes here a certain relevancy.
If we take the period of the Revolution (including
the opposition to it in England) as it is frequently
taken, to extend from the summoning of the States
General to the Battle of Waterloo, it may be said
that during this period Shelley belongs among
the Revolutionary prose writers. When the last
sparks of radicalism had been so completely
crushed by the Holy Alliance that even Con-
servatism lost its defensive vigour, Shelley's
Revolutionism, instead of fading to a mood of
half-sceptical revolt like that of Byron, reaches
the tragic intensity of faith in the social ideal
that gives to Prometheus Unbound its unearthly
The poetry of Shelley does not properly fall
within the limits of our discussion, either in point
1 Cf. Shelley's preface to Prometheus Unbound.
And the English Novel 133
of time or of form. 1 We may say in closing
that Shelley the poet lived in an age of conser-
vatism but he was not of it. His poetry is the
fine flower of the age of Revolution. His own
time felt this and repudiated him. He himself
was conscious of it, and has left a perfect analysis
of his own relation to the age in the lines from
Midst others of less note came one frail form,
A phantom among men; companionless
As the last cloud of an expiring storm
Whose thunder is its knell. 2
1 Revolution in the poetry of Shelley has, moreover, been fully
treated by Dr. Hancock. A list of the poems which contain
Revolutionary doctrines is added to the bibliography of this
'Adonais, verse xxxi.
SOME OPPONENTS OF THE REVOLUTIONARY
HOLCROFT, Godwin, and Shelley; these three
are the true and orthodox exponents of the
Revolutionary doctrines. Of all the phases of
that complex philosophy, nothing essential re-
mains entirely unrepresented in their writings.
In succeeding chapters 1 we shall see what varia-
tions the main tenets received at the hands of
novelists who did not accept them in their entirety.
These, however, add little that is original. They
are like ripples spreading in circles that grow ever
broader and less distinct, until one is finally
puzzled to trace their relation to the central force
that troubled the surface of the age.
Before we pass on to these secondary radical-
isms, there remain a number of novels which deal
with the original philosophies directly but from
an opposite point of view. These add very con-
siderably to our understanding of the period.
Unfriendly criticism is often not the least acute.
The absurdities of the Revolutionary philosophies
1 Especially in Chapters V. and VI.
The English Novel 135
were numerous ; he who runs may read them. But
besides satirizing the obvious fallacies of their
opponents, some of these novels offer, as we shall
see, valuable analyses of the systems which they
are attacking. They also give explicit lists of the
authors identified with the Revolution, and throw
some light on the extent to which their doctrines
had spread in the nation at large. Finally, and
not least important, they indicate the extent to
which the age was aware of the economic basis of
its own unrests. Veiled under a zeal for law,
order, monarchy, religion, or what not, one catches
ever and anon strange echoes of the primitive,
snarling hatred, born of fear, with which the
Classes who Have regard all that threatens to
arouse that sleeping beast, the Masses who Have
Not. Political and religous bigotry are but
feeble motives compared with the bitter unreason
awakened by any discussion in which Property
Two of these anti-Revolutionary novels are of
sufficient interest to warrant a somewhat detailed
discussion. These will be treated first at some
length before passing on to the less important
novels of the same group.
The Vagabond, or, Whatever is Just is Equal,
but Equality not always Just 1 was, as the preface
written with a desire of placing in a practical light
some of the prominent absurdities of the many self-
1 By George Walker, published in 1799.
136 The French Revolution
important reformers of mankind who, having heated
their political imaginations, sit down to write political
romances, and turn loose their disciples upon the
world to root up and overthrow everything that has
received the sanction of ages. On this subject it is
impossible to exaggerate, so inimical are the doctrines
of Godwin, Hume, Rousseau, etc., to all civilized
society. Can we wonder at the vices and crimes of a
neighboring people? Or can we wonder that the
generality of shallow-thinking men embrace and
support them with ardour? 1
This was apparently a "best seller" in its time.
In the preface to the third edition the author
comments upon the fact that, in spite of his refusal
to print a cheap edition like The Rights of Man,
two editions have been sold within six months.
"It gives me considerable hopes that the destruct-
ive torpor of the rich is evaporating, and that
they have begun to take an active interest in the
present crisis." 3 Evidently the worthy Walker
perceived quite clearly the economic nature of
"the present crisis," and to whose interest it was
to avoid changes.
In the first chapter the philosophic Dr. Alogos,
while walking near his estate reflecting upon
the unreasonableness of private property, is at-
tacked by a youth who eloquently defends his
right to take whatever he needs. The good
Doctor, perceiving that he has met with a kindred
spirit, takes the youth home with him, and listens
1 The Vagabond, vol. i., p. xix. Ibid., p. xxii.
And the English Novel 137
to his story. Fenton (the youth's name) had, it
appears, a natural desire for learning. He "did
not then know that profound ignorance is the real
and only state in which man can enjoy felicity."
At the university he had a tutor, Stupeo by name,
who instructed him in modern philosophy as
represented by Tom Paine, Godwin, Hume,
Voltaire, and Rousseau. He learned, among other
things, that: "To doubt is the first step to be a
great philosopher. . . . Those who believe any-
thing certainly are fools. (Hume, On Human
Nature, vol. i., p. I68.)" 1 Also, that as he had
never consented to the government under which
he lived, to him it was an absolute despotism.
He objected at first that the government could
not possibly consult every individual as he came
of age, but was soon convinced that: "Surely
Voltaire, Rousseau, and Tom Paine knew what
was for the best." 2 He "deserted Aristotle,
Grotius, Puffendorf, and even Locke, and ceased
to study Latin and Greek." 3 He adds:
My imagination was wanned by the glorious and
brilliant spectacle of superstition tumbling down and
crushing tyranny in its ruins. . . . The time shall come
when knowledge is disseminated in all ranks, when the
plowman shall sit on his plow reading the rights of
man. Then aristocracy and property shall tumble
1 Vagabond, vol. i., p. 16-21. 3 Ibid., p. 30.
* Ibid., p. 25. < Ibid., pp. 45-47.
138 The French Revolution
He was expelled from college, to the great grief
of his affectionate father, who said: "Stupeo could
never sophisticate the common sense dictates of
a mind willing to do right." 1 A fire broke out
near his home; he kept the firemen away from
the ladders while he meditated which of the in-
mates was best worth saving, according to the
teachings of Godwin. Attacked by his indignant
neighbours, his answer was to doubt whether there
ever was any fire at all, according to the method
Fenton then left his home and became a vaga-
bond, consoling himself with the thought: "Were
I fit to live in society, I should be no real philo-
sopher." In his wanderings, he came upon a
gathering in a barn where a political ranter was
lecturing on the rights of man and the evils of
the time. (A note declares this address to be
quoted from a real political lecturer.) He winds
up with a denunciation of government spies.
The crowd applauds vigorously, and departs with
a firm conviction that: "England be gone to the
dogs as we heard Citizen Ego say, and it will
never be as it ought to be until we have another
Alderman Cromwell, and no tithes." 2 Afterwards
Fenton heard "Citizen Ego" planning to forge
letters from imaginary corresponding clubs in
other cities. The author adds a note denouncing
all political clubs.
Fenton harangued against the luxury and ex-
1 Vagabond, vol. i., p. 64. 3 Ibid., p. 84.
And the English Novel 139
travagance of the rich, and was answered by a
noble lord (the author's mouthpiece), in the
Luxury fosters arts and sciences, and employs the
mechanic, the shop-keeper, the merchant. Without
luxury, none of these could meet employ. ... In the
present condition of society, it is in the power of every
man possessing real abilities to rise to a station equal
to those abilities; and therefore we reverence the
exteriors of wealth, tacitly bestowing it upon all
Next, Fenton fell in with a "No Popery" mob,
which forced him into a boxing contest. To the
account of this the author adds a note :
See the elegant reasons for boxing, in Anna St. Ives
and Hugh Trevor, two novels which the democratic
Reviews hold up as examples of virtue and morality.
'Tis true, if blasphemy be virtue and morality, these
offspring of the new school have ample claim. a
Finding that the "No Popery" mob was being
roused by the new philosophers, Fenton joined in
it. There he encountered his old friend Stupeo,
who urged him on to the destruction of property.
"As long as one single cartload of property re-
mains in any country, there can be no true
1 Vagabond, vol. i., p. 114. The unconscious irony of all this
must have appealed very forcibly to thinkers of the type of
Holcroft and Mary Wollstonecraft.
3 Ibid., p. 129. s Ibid., p. 144.
140 The French Revolution
Fenton next associated himself with a woman
who harangues him on the rights of women.
He says of her: "She reasoned little, but adopted
one principle and rejected another by a sort of
tact." A note points out that this is quoted from
Godwin's Life of Mary Wollstonecraft, and adds:
"Those who reason much will readily believe
this." 1 Fenton's Mary soon left him, however.
On one occasion, while inciting a mob of farmers
to protest against the enclosure of public lands,
he was arrested. The magistrate at his trial re-
peats the argument of the noble lord, with
What can be more easy than to lead people to desire
to live without labour, to plunder the rich, and to live
without regard to those laws which were made pur-
posely to restrain their passions ? . . . The accumula-
tion of individual property is the natural and certain
consequence of society. The rich, by their luxuries,
give employment to the poor. The rich would do
much better without the poor than the poor without
them. ... In fact it is the middle class of people
who bear the great burden of the state. The poor were
exactly the same a hundred years ago, and will be
always the same under any form of government.
Moreover, no Englishman can die of absolute want if
he will appeal to the charitable institutions. 2
To which astonishing piece of complacent econo-
mic nonsense Fenton replies, that, "There is no
1 Vagabond, vol. i., p. 181. 'Ibid., p. 213.
And the English Novel 141
wealth but the labour of man." But the people
have been convinced by the magistrate, and eagerly
consent to have their public lands fenced in. I
Soon after this, Fenton turned highwayman,
since robbery is "merely asserting the Rights of
Man by force," and so met Dr. Alogos.
Dr. Alogos and Fenton determine to enlighten
their community. They establish a Temple of Rea-
son in a barn, where they read moral lectures with
such effectiveness that the curate soon finds him-
self obliged to sue for his tithes and the neigh-
bouring public houses each have a Revolutionary
Club where the labourers meet and drink, until:
"They now clearly perceived that the times were
the worst that ever old England had witnessed;
for they every day found themselves less able to
maintain their families." 2
Dr. Alogos has a very sensible niece who is
much opposed to the new philosophies, and espe-
cially to Mary Wollstonecraft's doctrines. Her
argument is, that women cannot be equal to men
in anything because their lives must be confined
exclusively to the bearing and rearing of children,
"a humbling difference." It will be observed
that it was left for the opponents of the new f emin-
1 Fenton was not so altogether in the wrong here as the author
would have us believe. Gibbins says, in his Industrial History of
England (p. 199): "The enclosure of the common fields was
effected at a great loss to the smaller tenant, and when his com-
mon of pasture was enclosed as well, he was greatly injured, while
the agricultural labourer was permanently disabled."
* Vagabond, vol. ii., p. 19.
142 The French Revolution
ism to discover anything "humbling" in this.
Mary Wollstonecraft herself would have consid-
ered potential motherhood a strange proof of
Dr. Alogos, Fenton, and Stupeo resolve to
emigrate to America in search of a virtuous and
primitive society. They meet a storm at sea,
and terror convinces Dr. Alogos that: "There is
more in religion and in commonplace maxims of
good and evil than the great Stupeo would allow." J
They find Philadelphia very uncomfortable.
"Property is much regarded, and the maxim is
' work or starve. ' There is political equality here,
but not equality of property." 2 They immedi-
ately set out for the wilds of Kentucky. There they
have some experience of real savages. Stupeo is
killed. The Doctor declares: "Rousseau was a
fool. I begin to think the savage state of nature
was not conducted on philosophical principles."
To this the author adds a note :
It is the practice of the new school to extoll every-
thing savage. Why is this but to loosen men from the
bonds of society, and sap the foundations of govern-
ments? . . . The emancipation of the negroes, and
the inhumanity of Christians is an excellent stalking-
horse for those who pretend to finer feelings than the
rest of mankind. 3
Fenton and Dr. Alogos finally discover a fan-
tastic land of philosophers, conducted on the
1 Vagabond, vol. ii. f p. 105. ' Ibid., p. 132.
Ibid., pp. 158-73-
And the English Novel 143
principles of Political Justice; and a most wretched
community it is. Lack of incentive has checked
the development of talents; no one will work; and
no one will study. All property in common has
resulted in no property at all. To this account
there is a note appended :
I know that many of the new school will say that I
misrepresent the meaning of equality; that they do
not mean equality of property, but equality of rights.
The truth is, they mean both, though the fairest pre-
tence is held out. 1
In this community, Alogos and Fenton see men
starving while they are trying to decide by pure
reason where the daily half-hour of work, which
according to Godwin is all they need do, can best
be applied for the general good. Thieves and
criminals destroy everything; for there is no
"politically just" mode of punishment. The
women are forced to share in the roughest work,
until they petition for a return to the "ancient
slavery." Poverty, hunger, and disease are rapidly
destroying the entire population.
This [says the author], is a philosophic republic.
The ancient republics were fighting republics; the
Americans and Hollanders are trading republics.
But men seem neither better satisfied, nor better
governed, nor better fed in any of them; nor in
fact do they enjoy so many benefits as in a limited
1 Vagabond, vol. ii., p. 209.
144 The French Revolution
Fenton and Dr. Alogos, quite convinced of .their
folly, return to warn England of the dangers of the
principles which they formerly advocated.
The Infernal Quixote: A Tale of the Day has for
its motto: "Better to reign in Hell than serve in
Heaven." 1 Walker at least did Godwin and his
followers the honour of believing them sincerely
mad; Lucas will not allow them even the merit
of self-deception. He considers them demagogues
one and all, willing to overturn society if thereby
they may come into power. 2
There is a Miltonic prologue 3 ; an address of
Satan to the peers of hell.
The reign of Antichrist is begun, thanks to the
daring, restless sons of France inspired by me and
mine! Yet there is still a spot resists my utmost
efforts, too well ye know the place. In vain that
Imp Voltaire and yonder miserable group on earth,
conceited prating, proud philosophers gifted with all
our learning, tried; in vain Robespierre. . . . Our
Hell-born virtues nor art nor force can graft upon
their tree of civil and religious liberty.
1 By Charles Lucas, A.M. London, 1801.
2 While we are on this question of disinterestedness, we might
observe Lucas's own disgustingly fulsome dedication to royalty.
Is it possible that our worthy Master of Arts was judging other
men by himself?
s Milton was having an especial vogue when this was written.
Cf. the following passage from the Memoirs of an Old Wig: "It
was much the rage, not only to write the life of Milton, but to
hunt out busts, paintings, prints, nay, to trace him through all his
different places of residence. "
And the English Novel 145
But there remains one scheme untried; of which
this novel is an account, as foretold by Satan. *
Lord Marauder and Wilson Wilson, the son of
a virtuous farmer, are born on the same day (for
purposes of antithesis). Marauder is from his
youth devoted to evil.
He seemed to have imbibed an inveterate dislike
to religion [but on the other hand, although], he was
not ignorant of the wonderful arguments of William
Godwin, and though, if it suited his purpose, he would
make use of the conceit and folly of another, he had
too much sense to be led by them himself. a
Marauder corrupts Emily, the girl Wilson loves,
by keeping her supplied with all the new books.
"Among the first of these was Mary Wollstone-
craft's Rights of Women. 3 To this he adds Vol-
taire's Tales, and Diderot's novels. He reads to
her extracts from "that first of writers, that most
rational, philosophic, learned, modest, and inge-
nious of all human naturals, William Godwin;
taken from his scientific work, The History of the
Intrigues of his Own Wife." 4 Emily is induced to
elope with Marauder to London, where her educa-
tion in vice is completed by the noble Emigres
with whom Marauder associates. She becomes
an adept in the Voltairean philosophy, with a
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. i., p. 4. 2 Ibid., p. 152.
3 Ibid., p. 153.
Ibid., p. 170. Memoirs of the Author of a Vindication of the
Rights of Women, of course.
146 The French Revolution
charming marchioness to explain it to her. The
author comments on the fact that :
The ci-devant nobility were perfectly acquainted
with the works of Spinoza, Hobbes, Shaftesbury,
Hume, Voltaire, Diderot, D'Alembert, and the whole
gang of modern sceptics in the English, French, and
German languages, and . . . frequently dispute with
great civility on the use of titles. From the conversa-
tion of many of them a stranger would suppose that
they were of the democratic party. Many of the
first abilities actually joined the popular cause; for . . .
the present infamous factions (in France) must not
be confused with the first noble emancipators of their
The duke, whose heir Marauder believed him-
self to be, dies, a long-lost son appears, and Marau-
der finds his hopes of rank and title vanished.
His aristocratic ambitions thwarted, he changes
sides immediately, resolving to make the hell
of democracy his heaven. In this he is compared
to Cromwell, "except that Cromwell's enthusiasm
rather got the better of his hypocrisy," while
Marauder's only principle is, that "all principle
is folly." 2 He becomes a leader in all seditious
and treasonable plots, finally joins in the Irish
uprisings, and is there defeated and killed by
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. i., pp. 125-37. The last sentence is
significant as an indication that English observers were fully
aware of the fundamental change in the nature of the Revolu-
tion, the passing from bourgeoise to proletarian control.
' Ibid., p. 295.
And the English Novel 147
Such is the main plan of the novel. All this
is of interest, aside from the author's main thesis
(the ambitious motives of the Revolutionary
leaders), for the lists of Revolutionary writers it
gives, and for the light it throws on the attitude
of the French ci-devant nobility. /There are
also various passages satirizing the mummeries
of "Those Secret Societies, who by some general
name and open profession of constitutional pur-
pose conceal their attempt to overthrow Church
and State." 1
But there are certain other digressions which are
of more interest to us than all the rest of the
novel. Lucas was evidently of a keenly analyti-
cal turn of mind; not content with merely dis-
liking all the newer tendencies of his time, he
seeks to discover the common basis of his dislikes.
In so doing he gives us a very illuminating dis-
cussion of the underlying affinities between the
apparently opposite principles of Sentimentalism
and Pure Reason.
The question is one which suggests itself inevit-
ably. Sentimentalism (which we have defined
as an interest in feeling for its own sake, tending
to make feeling the test of opinion), and the Pure
Reason philosophies, with their negation of feel-
ing, would seem to be opposite poles of thought.
Yet there are certain curious parallelisms. It is
at about the same time (the close of the seven-
teenth century), that both Sentimentalism and
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. ii., p. 212.
148 The French Revolution
Scepticism begin to make their influence felt in
English literature. Furthermore, it is in the writers
directly influencing the Revolutionists that both
come to their fullest expression. Hume, the com-
plete Sceptic, and Rousseau, the complete Senti-
mentalist, were born within a couple of years of
each other. x We have already commented on the
fact that Godwin, apostle of Pure Reason in his
theory, is a thorough Sentimentalist in his literary
practice. Certain books like the Social Contract
are puzzling to classify.
There is another puzzling element in the thought
of the eighteenth century. The growth of Method-
ism and similar forms of dissent, whose followers
were grouped under the general heading of reli-
gious enthusiasts, were seriously threatening the
dry bones of Establishment. And, again a coin-
cidence in dates: the first Methodist preaching
place was opened in Bristol in 1739, the year of
the publication of Hume's first work, A Treatise
on Human Nature.
We must not be misled by an instinctive desire
for synthesis; yet it is difficult to believe that
these curious interactions and chronological paral-
lelisms are altogether without significance. Hence
their discussion and analysis by a contemporary
critic is of especial interest.
'Hume, b. 1711; Rousseau, b. 1712. These coincidences in
dates are, of course, noted merely to illustrate the fact that Sen-
timentalism, Scepticism, and Methodism were exactly contem-
And the English Novel 149
Infidelity and enthusiasm, Lucas admits, are
opposite extremes; but they often reach the same
conclusions. Godwin, he points out, began as a
dissenting preacher, and there are many similari-
ties between his doctrines and those of Methodism.
The author of the Spiritual Quixote, speaking of
religious enthusiasm ere the irreligious was yet ma-
tured, said "Enthusiasm is deaf to all the calls of
nature, " etc. Did not the wretches in France boast
the murder of fathers, brothers, and sons? Does not
Godwin renounce those ties? 1
In further illustration of this similarity Lucas
gives a mock sermon, based he declares on one he
has actually heard, which with a few changes in
names is adapted either to a democratic ranter or
to a Methodist preacher. He defies the reader
to tell which was the original form.
Faith, Grace, Hope, and Charity make it the one;
Liberty, Equality, and Justice make it the other.
Call Saints Democrats; Sinners, Aristocrats ; for Satan,
read Tyrants; and for more sacred names, take Nature,
and so forth.
j Satan and his imps of darkness ) are on the
( Tyrants and their ministers of tyranny ) watch,
( beloved Brethren ) ^
my 1 . _. . > to fasten you in the eternal
7 ( fellow Citizens )
chains of \ , [Be therefore ever vigilant.
( Slavery )
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. ii., p. 176.
150 The French Revolution
T, . ( Gospel Armor )
Put on the j ,. ., ~ > and defy the powers of
etc., etc., ad libitum.' 1
Lucas then passes on to a classification of the
new philosophies of infidelity and enthusiasm,
which he groups under the comprehensive heading
of "Diabolism." This he defines as, "A species
of wisdom which man discovers by the aid of
his own individual powers, corporal and mental,
without owning the aid of any superior being,
directly or indirectly." 2
Diabolism he divides into nine sects, as follows :
Epicureans. . . . ,
-r, . ,. of ancient origin, but modernized.
Naturals. f ,.
T. Moderns. 3
The first three "ancients" he dismisses as being
sufficiently well understood, and proceeds to de-
fine the others, with satirical comment. The
"Virtuosos" are the lovers of Wonder; their
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. ii., p. 177-78.
1 Ibid., p. 222.
J Ibid., p. 225.
And the English Novel 151
delight is to rake in the past for things forgotten,
which they hail as novelties. 1 " Libertinians,"
as might be supposed, are the political theorists,
anarchistic or republican, who are insane on the
subject of liberty. "Illuminati" include not
merely the society of that name, but all religious
sects which claim an especial enlightenment,
including Quakers and Methodists. 3
The "Naturals" are the philosophers of the
Return to Nature, and the worshippers of "natu-
ral" feeling. 3 This sect, Lucas thinks, are more
sincere and less dangerous (because more obvi-
ously mad) than the others. "Like the Quakers,
they are more admired by the rest than imitated." 4
He adds, the name "Natural" is rendered espe-
cially appropriate by the bedlam appearance
presented by the followers of this sect in their
"Return to Nature" costumes.
Lucas comments on the strange alliance between
z Cf. frequent definitions of Romanticism as "The Rennais-
sance of Wonder" and as "A Return to the Middle Ages. "
3 Society of the Illuminati; "Founded in 1776, by Adam Weis-
haupt with the ostensible object of perfecting human nature, of
binding in one brotherhood men of all countries, ranks and relig-
ions, and of surrounding the persons of princes with trustworthy
advisers. The mysteries related to religion, which was transform-
ed into naturalism and free thought, and to politics, which in-
clined to socialism and republicanism." (Article on Illuminati,
in the American Encyclopedia.) Cf. also my note on St. Simon,
in Chapter VI.
* Infernal Quixote, vol. ii., p. 263.
/. e., Sentimentalists, and Rousseauists of the Thomas Day
152 The French Revolution
the "Naturals" and the "Reasoners" (i. e., the
Sentimentalists and Sceptics) of his time. "The
Reasoners deceive the Naturals by making them
think the Reasoners' whims and fancies are the
genuine offspring of nature." x Like the Naturals,
the Reasoners exalt an ideal primitive man; espe-
cially when attacking religion. "The most com-
mon method of the Reasoner is to write a dialogue
on the subject between himself and the savage.
He, very kindly, for Christianity; the savage for
himself. Oh, how the savage cuts him up!" 2
Hume is a perfect specimen of the Reasoner.
"Rousseau is so strange a compound between a
Natural and a Reasoner (which rarely happens)
that his brethren never knew what to make of
Most detestable of all Diabolists are the Nothin-
gers. These are the people whose pride it is to
have no principles whatever; who are swayed
entirely by self-interest. In this group Lucas
classified Godwin. "Every Jacobin is of this sect,
and they generally also embrace most of the others,
except the Naturals, and that they endeavour to
make 'Le Souverain Peuple.' " 4
Having demonstrated the real unity in Diabol-
ism, however various its forms, Lucas proceeds
to indicate his own philosophy. He favours a
definite and centralized authority in matters of
1 Infernal Quixote, vol. ii., p. 263. * Ibid., vol. ii., p. 279.
J Ibid., vol. ii., p. 283. Ibid., vol. ii., p. 291.
And the English Novel 153
government and of belief; Constitutional Mon-
archy and the Established Church.
Establishment [he says], is a requisite form of
religious worship. What in the abstract cannot be
defended may in the whole be of the highest benefit. *
In Church, in State, I fear schisms and oppositions
as the harbingers of confusion, and from them I dread
the introduction of every species of evil. 2
In all matters of belief, he recognizes the prin-
ciple of authority.
If everyone were free to make the articles of his own
faith, little would remain of the original institutions of
Christ. . . . The majority of the world are composed of
the ignorant, the designing, the indolent, and the open
reprobate; how dark and gloomy is the prospect of
the human mind left to itself ! It is absolutely neces-
sary that our minds as well as persons should have
some law. 3
Such is Lucas's analysis of the thought of his
time. On the one side authority, tradition, a
fixed standard, in belief as in conduct. On the
other side, individualism, revolt, disorganization.
The Sentimentalist and Pure Reason philosophies
1 But Lucas is not quite so sound a Pragmatist as one might
infer from his method of defending Establishment. He defines
Christianity as "That purity of principle which will not, by any
mental persuasion, commit that which is wrong, even if it is to
produce the greatest benefit. " Infernal Quixote, vol. iii., p. 68.
'Ibid., vol. ii., pp. 183-86.
J Ibid., vol. ii.,
154 The French Revolution
in all their forms have this in common: they are
a revolt from the principle of authority. Their
ethical systems are formed by each man for him-
self, subject to no discipline by recognized superi-
ors. Having cast aside the principle of authority,
one group is guided by pure feeling, the other by
pure reason; but that is merely a subdivision of
the main classification on the basis of their com-
A number of other novels written in opposition
to the Revolutionary philosophies may be men-
tioned, but none of them merit any detailed con-
sideration. They are merely significant of the
prevalence of the opinions which they represent. 1
It will be remembered that Lucas classified the
Methodists among the Sentimentalists, as having
revolted from the principle of authority in favour
of purely subjective standards. This classifica-
tion is curiously corroborated by an earlier novel,
The Fair Methodist, or, Such Things Are (anon.,
1794). This is announced as "a serious novel,
founded on truth." A passage in the dedication
(to Sir Rowland Hill) is worth quoting :
1 Edmund Oliver, by Charles Lloyd (the friend of Charles
Lamb, to whom the book is dedicated), should be mentioned here.
Dowden says of it: "The reproduction in fiction of some of S. T.
Coleridge's early adventures has given the book an interest which
its literary merits fail to justify. The heroine, Lady Gertrude
Sinclair, is a disciple of Political Justice" (English Literature and
the French Revolution, p. 89).
And the English Novel 155
The word Gospel in divinity, like Liberty in politics,
is intoxicating in its sound to those who know little
of its genuine signification. . . . That ignorance is the
mother of devotion is manifested in the very temper of
methodistical enthusiasm, which denies human learn-
ing as useless and gives a preference to the Spirit as
alone sufficient. 1
The novel itself deals with a young woman who
behaves very treacherously to all her friends, and
then becomes a Methodist and assumes airs of
great sanctity. There are numerous passages
directed against all forms of belief in which faith
and an emotional experience are considered as an
equivalent for works. The author is not opposed
to all the newer tendencies, however. He speaks
with great respect of Hume and Priestley.
Before we leave the subject of Methodism,
there is an interesting passage in The Memoirs of
an Old Wig (Richard Fenton, 1815), indicating
that the charge of Sentimentalism was a common
one. The Old Wig says of one of its owners:
"His religion was made up of Rousseau and
H h M e [Hannah More?], the worst sort
of Methodism, that is, Methodism with a dis-
proportionate mixture of the philosophy of
There are several novels written at about this
time in rather truculent defence of orthodoxy.
Among the best of these is Memoirs of a Female
1 The Fair Methodist, p. ii.
156 The French Revolution
Philosopher, by a Modern Male Philosopher (anon.,
1818). This is an imitation of Hume's Dialog
of Four Philosophers. It is in the form of an
argument between four ladies representing the
Stoic, Epicurean, Platonist, and Christian philo-
sophies. The Christian has the best of it, of
course. The semblance of narrative form is kept
by having each of the ladies tell the story of her
life by way of illustration.
A similar novel of argument is Edward and
Sophia anon. (188-,), in which a deist is reconciled
to the Established Church.
In Walter Kennedy, an American Tale (1805),
John Davis gives some realistic pictures of Indian
life in opposition to the belief in a Rousseauistic
state of nature and the noble savage.
Two novels with prefaces bewailing the use of
fiction to corrupt the age with Revolutionary
doctrines, but confining themselves to common-
place morality, are Cypher, or The World as it Goes
(anon., 1791), and Romulus: A Tale of Ancient
Times, an adaptation from the German, by Rev.
P. Mill (not dated).
The Last Man, or, Omegarus and Syderia: A
Romance of Futurity contains certain passages on
the Revolutionary philosophies as they are sup-
posed to be regarded by a remote posterity. "Ex-
perience is the only reason of man. Maxims
more pernicious than the plague were supposed
beneficent by ages which deemed themselves
enlightened. The evils which these maxims create
And the English Novel 157
cannot be described." 1 The only other points
worth noting in this novel of prophecy are the
forecasts of the development of machinery, and
the art of flying, and a Malthusian terror of over-
/'// Consider of It (anon., 1812), a novel written
in obvious imitation of Sterne, has for its unifying
principle the exaltation of aristocratic birth, and
the evils of mesalliances. A typical speech of the
hero is: "Such are the maxims of those who are
fond of innovations, that 'virtue alone is true
nobility,' and all such commonplace ideas. I
am for different orders and degrees of men." 3
Turning from the noisy warfare over ideas,
religious and political, to the underlying realities
of the economic conflict, we come upon one novel
at least that merits attention. The Magic of
Wealth, an Antibank Novel 4 is a protest, from the
standpoint of the landed classes against the grow-
ing supremacy of capital. It may serve to indi-
cate the extent to which the age was aware of the
real nature of the changes taking place.
There are three principle figures in the novel:
Oldways, Flimflam the banker, and Lyttleton,
the mysterious stranger. Mr. Oldways is an Old
1 The Last Man, anon., 1806.
2 This particular bogy continued to cast a dark shadow over
the future for sociologists as late, certainly, as Tennyson's second
Locksley Hall. In the twentieth century we seem to prefer the
race suicide bogy.
J I'll Consider of It, vol. ii., p. 179.
By E. T. Sun, author of A Winter in London, etc., 1815.
158 The French Revolution
Whig, of the school of Burke, who has "the sin-
cerest admiration of the principles of the British
Constitution as recognized at the era of the Revo-
lution," and points triumphantly to "the morti-
fying lesson to the bigoted worshippers of any
human theory or system afforded by the horrors
of the French Revolution." 1 Oldways was
born and bred the true old English gentleman; he
possessed no part of the trafficking spirit of the times.
It never occurred to him that the revenues of his
estates were to be considered only so much capital. . . .
He never contemplated the necessity of engaging in
such projects, to save himself from being overwhelmed
by the effects of that power, which paper circulation
imparted to every dealer in every article of general
Oldways finds, however, that as the cost of
living rises his expenses are enormously increased
through no fault of his own. Also, his tenantry
are becoming steadily poorer and less able to pay
even his moderate rents. He refuses to follow
the general practice of raising rents. He likewise
refuses to speculate. Consequently, he is fairly
driven out of the country, "until principles of
sound policy shall induce the government to adopt
such reforms as shall restore to its natural and
wholesome influence among the other orders of
1 Magic of Wealth, vol. i., p. 174.
* Ibid., vol. i. f p. 179.
And the English Novel 159
the state, the ranks of independent country gentle-
Oldways's estate, his influence, and his seat in
Parliament fall into the hands of the upstart
Dangerous crisis when a skilful manoeuvrer by
speculative art can wrest from the descendants of the
ancient nobility the means of supporting with neces-
sary dignity that rank and influence in the state which
the wisdom and experience of their ancestors con-
sidered and confirmed as a most salutary balance
between the monarch's power and the people's will. 2
The deus ex machina who interferes at this crisis
to save the nation from the consequences of wild
speculation and a loss of the balance of power
is the mysterious stranger, Lyttleton. 3 He has
gained possession of the hidden treasure of the
Jesuits. Returning after years of absence, he
reflects: "With wealth that gives me over millions
of my fellow creatures the powers of the genii of
romance I am here in England where poverty and
wealth are terms almost synonymous with vice
and virtue." 4 He decides that the best way in
which he can serve mankind is to "apply the magic
1 Magic of Wealth, vol. ii., p. 134.
2 Ibid., vol. ii., p. 124.
s Of course he turns out to be Oldways's long-lost nephew. In
novels of this period one may always rest assured that any per-
son not otherwise accounted for will turn out to be someone's
long-lost something-or-other, before the end of the book.
Ibid., vol. i., p. 27.
160 The English Novel
of real wealth in order to counteract the evils
which have originated from the tricks and delu-
sions of selfish impostors." He straightens out
the banking system and the currency, assists
Oldways and his friends, and exposes Flimflam.
The novel ends with a moral :
Happy will it be for Old England, for the British
Empire, for the civilized world, when the manoeuvres
of such mischievous speculators as Flimflam shall no
longer be successful; and when the character and
conduct of such men as Mr. Oldways shall be rightly
understood, duly honored, and generally imitated. 1
1 Magic of Wealth, vol. ii., p. 240.
REVOLUTIONISTS AND RADICALS OF
SECTION I : THE NOVELS OF ROBERT BAGE
IN considering the novels of Godwin we observed
a certain divergence between the personalities
shown in his life, in his novels, and in his philo-
sophical writings. In the case of Robert Bage, the
man, the literary artist, and the thinker are so
identified that it is hard to separate them even for
convenience in discussion. His six novels are the
spontaneous expression of the observations and
ideas collected in a long and useful life. One no
more wishes to consider them apart from the
biography of the author than one would read
The Old Benchers of the Inner Temple without wish-
ing first to make the personal acquaintance of Elia.
Fortunately there are few among our little group
of novelists whom we may know more intimately
than Bage. The accounts of his friends Godwin
and Hutton, letters, and the memoir which Miss
Hutton supplied for Scott's preface to his edition
of Bage's novels help us to give form to the
personality that so pervades his work. 1 Robert
1 Paid, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 263.
1 62 The French Revolution
Bage himself comes clearly before us, a success-
ful manufacturer and the son of a manufacturer,
belonging with Shakespeare and Chaucer in that
honourable minority of imaginative writers who
have had the practical qualities necessary to make
their way in the world of business. After a good
common school education, where he early dis-
tinguished himself by his proficiency in Latin, he
entered his father's paper-mills. When he had
gained the necessary experience, he set up for
himself as a paper manufacturer at Elford. He
married early and very happily. His efficient
management left him time for wide reading and
study; at the age of fifty-three, as he told Godwin,
the failure of a business venture "filled him with
melancholy thoughts, and to dissipate them he
formed the idea of a novel which he endeavoured
to fill with gay and cheerful ideas. At first he had
no idea of publishing what he wrote. He believes
he should not have written novels but for the want
of books to assist him in any other literary under-
taking. " x The six novels which he published at
fairly regular intervals during the next fifteen
years were all decidedly and immediately success-
To this meagre outline of a well-rounded life we
may add some sketches of the man as he appeared
to those who knew him. In 1797, Godwin, making
a pilgrimage to visit the sage, writes of him in a
letter to Mary Wollstonecraf t :
1 Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 263.
And the English Novel 163
I found him uncommonly cheerful and placid,
simple in his manners, and youthful in his carriage.
His house at the mill was floored every room below
stairs with brick, like that of a common farmer in all
respects. . . . He has thought much, and like most of
those persons I have met with who have conquered
many prejudices and read little metaphysics, is a
materialist. His favourite book on this point is the
Systeme de la Nature. 1
A fuller account is given by Miss Hutton, the
daughter of Bage's old friend.
In his person, Robert Bage was rather under the
middle size, and rather slender, but well propor-
tioned. His complexion was fair and ruddy, his hair
light and curling; his countenance intelligent, yet
mild and placid. His manners were courteous, and
his mind was firm. His integrity, his honour, his
devotion to truth, were undeviating and incorrup-
tible: his humanity, benevolence and generosity were
not less conspicuous in private life than they were in
the principal characters in his works. He supplied
persons he never saw with money because he heard
they were in want. He kept his servants and his
horses to old age, and both men and quadrupeds were
attached to him. He behaved to his sons with the
unremitting affection of a father; but, as they grew
up, he treated them as men and equals, and allowed
them that independence of mind and conduct which
he claimed for himself. . . . He never had a strong
passion for wealth, and he never rose to opulence. 8
1 Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 262.
* Ballantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., preface, p. xxiv.
164 The French Revolution
The novels of Robert Bage are precisely what
we should expect of such a man. His personality
pervades them all; kindly, humorous, even
whimsical; keenly observant of life, and genuinely
enjoying his fellow-men. He belongs rather to the
tradition of Goldsmith than with the Gothic
Romancers. There is enough plot to keep the
action in his novels from stagnating, but little
more. The author is principally interested in the
personalities his imagination has created. It
speaks volumes for his ability that neither the
meagreness of plot nor the frank didacticism are
at any time felt as a defect. The form chosen
(four out of the six novels are series of letters),
is admirably adapted to the genial and sympathe-
tic characterization in which Bage excells. It is
not a crowded canvas that he presents us; rather,
a group of a dozen or so pleasant people, with a
background of events and a few unsympathetic
types lightly sketched in. We look over their
shoulders at the clever letters they write about
each other. We are interested in the various
strands of their lives, and not less interested in their
shrewd observations on the world of contemporary
thought. The zest with which the author created
these people is contagious.
The general framework of the plots of each novel
may be given in a few words. Mount Henneth
(published 1781), derives its title from an old
castle in Wales bought by a wealthy and intelligent
merchant who proposes to retire there with his
And the English Novel 165
daughter and such congenial people as he can
gather about him. After two volumes of accidents
and incidents in which they become acquainted,
the book closes with a quadruple wedding, and
some twelve or thirteen people settle at Mount
Kenneth in a sort of pre-Coleridgean Pantisocracy,
where the gentlemen work for a short time each
day, and in the afternoon join their wives in
studies and amusement. Bage is so fond of these
multiple weddings, that often, as the last chapter
of a novel approaches, the reader feels with Touch-
stone that: "There is, sure, another flood towards,
and these couples are coming to the ark! "
Barham Downs (1784), is a similar earthly
paradise, only with a more prominent villain, who
complicates matters by carrying off one of the
heroines to force her into a mariage de convenance.
All the main strands of plot in this novel find their
counterpart somewhere in the first. Most of them
are the usual stock in trade of the novelists of
James Wallace* (1788) has a somewhat more
unified plot, centring in an individual rather than
a place. The hero, setting out to make his own
way in the world, fails as a lawyer on account of
his over generous and trusting disposition. After
sundry adventures he becomes the servant of a
1 The Fair Syrian (1787), is the next in chronological order.
But as all efforts to secure a copy of this novel have hitherto been
unsuccessful, it must be omitted from our discussion for the
1 66 The French Revolution
young lady of rare charm and intelligence. Find-
ing that he loves her, and that her kindness to him
is causing gossip, he leaves her. After various
wanderings, he turns out to be the long-lost nephew
of a certain Irish gentleman who has befriended
him, wins great honour in a sea fight, and returns
to marry his Judith. This happy love story is
interwoven with a sad one. A boy and girl attach-
ment between a certain young gentleman and the
daughter of his tutor is broken off by his being sent
abroad to travel. He returns no longer capable of
finding happiness in right living, and his attempt at
kidnapping his former sweetheart being foiled by
the intervention of James Wallace, the young man
goes back to Paris and a life of dissipation. Several
very interesting personalities appear in the course
of the book Judith's benevolent, gruff old uncle ;
a sea captain, his friend; and Paracelsus Holman,
an apothecary of great scientific attainments, a rare
mixture of kindliness and shrewd good sense.
The last two of Bage's novels were written
during the Revolution in France, at a time when
the reaction against liberal ideas had already begun
in England. As the titles indicate, these two
novels are more distinctly and consciously doc-
trinary than the earlier ones. Yet so skilful a
literary workman is Bage, and so genuine and
vigorous his creative ability, that instead of
degenerating into mere arguments these show a
steady gain in literary merit. Miss Hutton com-
ments with some surprise on the fact that "of
And the English Novel 167
six different works comprising a period of fifteen
years, the last is unquestionably the best."
Man As He Is (1792) is frankly announced by
its preface as a novel with a purpose. In plot and
treatment it is the simplest of the six. Bage has
deserted the letter form with its opportunities for
detailed characterization and its many threads of
interest, in favour of direct narrative. A fashion-
able youth of good average character falls in love
with a young woman of rare intellect and refine-
ment. She refuses to receive his addresses until
he can win her respect. He goes to France and
there falls into the usual dissipations, all of which
report brings to the knowledge of his lady-love.
After several futile attempts at reform, he returns
to England and actually falls ill from despair of
ever winning her. Naturally (in a novel), the
lady forgives him, waives her impossible demands,
marries him, and he reforms, more or less. There
is a good deal of social satire in the book, and many
long discussions of contemporary ideas and events.
Two of the minor characters are worthy of note:
Mr. Lindsay, a man of high principles and culture
whom the hero rescues from a debtors' prison and
chooses for his tutor; and Miss Carlil, a spirited
young Quakeress who accompanies the heroine.
The last of Bage's novels was published in 1796,
a black year for English sympathizers with the
French Revolution. France had disappointed
political idealists, and the reaction in England
against their principles was at its height. The'note
i68 The French Revolution
of wistfulness in Bage's novel of the ideal man,
Hermsprong, Or Man As He Is Not, accords well
with the time. The sharp conflicts of ideas arising
from the political crisis have at last crystallized
Bage's very liberal sentiments into a genuine
radicalism. The book not only shows abundant
evidences of the influence of the most extreme
political thinkers of his time, but contains numer-
ous direct references to such writers as Rousseau,
Thomas Paine, and Mary Wollstonecraft. Here
gentle satire of social follies and shams takes on a
note of bitterness, and there are passages of vigor-
ous denunciation directed against specific evils in
the body politic. Here only in the six novels does
the plot itself seem chosen primarily as a vehicle
for the expression of the author's politico-philo-
Hermsprong, the protagonist of Bage's social
philosophy, is a mysterious young man who has
passed the first twenty years of his life among the
American Indians. After some four years of travel
through Europe, chiefly on foot, and a brief resi-
dence in France, he arrives somewhat abruptly
upon the scene of the story, just in time to rescue
the heroine from a runaway horse. When his
independence of manner incurs the enmity of her
father, Lord Grondale, a wealthy and dissipated
old nobleman, our stage setting is complete. The
rest of the novel consists principally of Herm-
sprong's comments upon the evils of the time in
politics and manners, his conflicts with prejudiced
And the English Novel 169
persons, and his philanthropic activities. In
the end, of course, he turns out to be the miss-
ing heir of Lord Grondale's estate, and marries
his daughter. So much for the plot. Our in-
terest here is with the character of Hermsprong,
admittedly the exponent of Bage's most extreme
The conception of introducing a man of uncon-
ventional or uncivilized education as a critic of
society was no new one in literature. A host of
familiar figures occur to one's mind Crusoe's
Friday, The Plain Dealer, the Fool of Quality,
Oronooko. Voltaire's L'ingenu (1767) offers a
parallel so striking that it is difficult to believe
Bage was not influenced by this version. In-
numerable likenesses in plot and sentiment might
be pointed out. With Rousseau's preaching of
the virtues of primitive man the satirically naive
comment from the standpoint of a noble savage
received a new popularity. Professor Cross writes
of this type-figure:
He was an evolution under the influence of the new
philosophy, of Fielding's Mr. Square, who conducted
himself according to the "unalterable rule of right
and the eternal fitness of things." How far removed
the ethics of the revolutionist was from Fielding is
seen by their attitude towards essentially the same
gentleman. In Tom Jones he was a villain; in Bage's
Hermsprong he was the hero. ]
1 Cross, Development of the English Novel, p. 92.
170 The French Revolution
Even in treating such a subject as the perfect
man in an imperfect state of society, the genial
good sense of Bage saves him from the flights of
unbridled idealism which were the curse of so
many thinkers of his time. Granting the early
environment Bage presupposes, Hermsprong is not
implausible. Whenever he tends to become too
much the superman, the author provides some
other character to voice with sly good humour the
criticism of common sense and common kindness.
From his savage training Hermsprong has acquired
a contempt for weakness. He is fond of long walks,
"makes a pipe and ale his luxuries, not habits,"
and despises self-indulgence in all forms. He is
frankly bored by long dinners and the elaborate
ceremonies of polite society; by no means an un-
heard of characteristic in actual life. But Herm-
sprong does not condemn civilization wholesale in
favour of savage life. In real happiness, he thinks,
the gain of civilized society is but small. But he
would not give up the pleasures of the mind for any
of the compensations of primitive life. The polit-
ical and philosophic views of Hermsprong are
much like those expressed in Bage's other novels,
except that he is an avowed Republican, as might be
expected. Of the French Revolution he says, 1 "it
is strange and new as to the causes which animate
the French; for as to the means the destruction
of the human species it has been a favourite
mode with power of every denomination ever since
1 Man As He Is Not, vol. i., p. 85.
And the English Novel 171
power was, " but he "leaves it to the loyal English-
man to approve by the lump. All the malignant as
well as all the better passions are afloat in France ;
and malignant actions are the consequence. Many
of the acts of the Assembly are acts of necessity,
and some, no doubt, of folly." 1 America ap-
proaches nearer to his ideal state of society: "Yet
still at an immense distance from the ultimatum,
to attain which manners must change much, and
governments more. The first is possible, for
manners are addicted to change. The latter is
hopeless. Governments do not change, at least
for the better." 2 Of England he says sadly:
"Your debts and other consequences of having
the best possible of all governments impose upon
you the necessity of being the first workshop in the
world. You labour incessantly for happiness. If
you find it, all is well. "
Curiously, Hermsprong's manner towards
women is one of affected gallantry: he acknow-
ledges that this is an exception to his principle of
universal sincerity. But when reluctantly en-
trapped into a serious discussion of the question,
he takes a thoroughly progressive stand for the
education and human dignity of women, ending:
Women have minds untrained, which instead of
ranging the worlds of metaphysics and logic are con-
fined to these ideas of routs and Ranelaghs. ... If
1 Man As He Is Not, vol. ii., p. 164.
2 Ibid., p. 162.
172 The French Revolution
"a firm mind and a firm body" be the best prayer of
men to the gods, why not of women? ... But while
they think as much of their charms as you suppose them
to do, Mrs. Wollstonecraft must write in vain. . . .
Be not angry with me. Be women what they may, I
am destined to be their adorer. Be angry with Mrs-
Wollstonecraft, who has lately abused the dear sex
through two octavo volumes. 1
In other words, Robert Bage was not very
vitally interested in that part of the revolution in
thought which pertained to the position of women.
It is safe to say that he had done a good deal of
thinking about woman. In his earlier novels he
theorizes extensively on the attitude of society
towards certain phases of the woman question.
But in this last novel his interest is centred on
other issues. He evades feminism as far as possible
or treats the whole matter with a whimsical
After considering Bage's novels separately, it
may prove illuminating to summarize those radical
principles which seemed to his contemporaries so
dangerous. They may be grouped under two
general headings: (i) religious and ethical; and
(2) political and economic.
a (i) Doctrinal disputes seem to Robert Bage
1 Man As He Is Not, vol. ii., pp. 167, 168.
2 Sir Walter Scott offers a suggestion of considerable import-
ance at this point. "Bage appears, from his peculiar style to
have been educated a Quaker, and he always painted the indi-
viduals of that primitive sect of Christians in amiable colours,
And the English Novel 173
futile and absurd. His books give abundant
testimony to his dislike for all forms of bigotry.
He follows the radical opinion of his time in re-
garding priests and kings as fellow-conspirators to
enslave the human mind. References to the
ignorance and corruption existing among the
clergy of the Established Church are numerous, but
not unfair. Hermsprong is the only one of his
novels in which satire on the clergy seems part of a
deliberate purpose, and even here there is a cheer-
ful admission that the type of "Dr. Blick" is by
no means universal. Nor is his opposition confined
to the abuses of the Established Church : dissenters
when they are introduced as personages in his novels. If this
was the case, however, he appears to have wandered from their
tenets into the wastes of scepticism. "
Later authorities (Chalmers's General Biographical Dictionary,
etc.) state positively that Bage was a member of the Society of
Friends. But the accounts of Bage by his contemporaries, Hutton
and Godwin, which form the basis of the encyclopaedia articles, say
nothing of this. It seems probable that this suggestion of Scott's,
which is after all only a suggestion, may have proved misleading.
If Bage presents us with some very attractive Quakers it is also
true that at times he writes rather scathing criticisms of that sect.
The novels themselves can hardly be said, therefore, to offer
conclusive evidence on this point. Neither can such characteris-
tics of Bage's as his dislike of war, of duelling, and of extravagances
in dress be taken as evidence. There were many opinions which
the Revolutionary sympathizers held in common with the
Quakers. Mrs. Opie passes quite naturally from Godwin's
particular clique into the Society of Friends.
It is interesting to observe that in his History of Derby Hutton
gives a list of the dissenting denominations represented in the
neighbourhood in which Bage lived; and the Society of Friends is
not among them.
174 The French Revolution
of all sorts, even Quakers, come in for their share
of shrewd criticism. Perhaps the real attitude of
Bage in matters of religion is most fully expressed
by James Foston, a character whom Bage might
well have drawn from the mirror.
The mere ceremonial forms of religion I had learned
among you English to think of very little account.
The perpetual view of these absurdities engrafted in
my mind a strong contempt. Thus I came at length
to bound my own religion within the narrow, (though
to me comprehensive) , bounds of the silent meditation
of a contrite heart lifting up its humble aspiration to
the Author and Preserver of all being, by what name
soever called throughout the universe. All the rest
appears to me invention or convention, sometimes
useful, sometimes detrimental to mankind. I speak
not of moral duties ; they are of another class. 1
But whatever his own belief, the one point which
he emphasizes again and again is the necessity
of tolerance and courteous open-mindedness in
discussing all matters of opinion, religious and
Bage is very careful to distinguish between
matters of opinion, for which a man is not re-
sponsible, and matters of conduct. He is not so
clear as to the distinction between feeling and
conduct. Occasionally the "bosom heaving with a
story of distress" is taken as an incontrovertible
proof of moral integrity. But on the whole, in
1 Mount Henneth, Ballantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., p. 165.
And the English Novel 175
ethical theory as well as in literary practice, Bage
is fairly free of Sentimentalism.
Contrary to Holbach and Helvetius, Bage asserts
firmly that: "There do exist motives in human
action that cannot be traced to love of self. " But
the basis of his ethical system is that: "Virtue
alone can secure true happiness." Virtue he
defines as: "Action directed for the benefit of
mankind." 1 The only standards of honour or of
courtesy he recognizes are those founded on
sincerity, benevolence, and good sense. Hence he
consistently opposes duelling, and all the ostenta-
tion and formality of the polite society of his
In 1824, twenty-three years after the death of
the author, Sir Walter Scott included three of
B age's novels in a collection which he was editing. 2
The preface written on this occasion is for our
purpose a very significant one. Scott evidently
finds himself in the awkward position of enjoying
the work of a man whose whole point of view he
considers in the highest degree dangerous to
society. He is praising under protest; and it
speaks well for the critical fairness of the politically
conservative Sir Walter that the estimate he gives
us of Bage as a man and as a novelist is both just
and generous. "But if not vicious himself," says
Scott, "Bage's leading principles are such as if
acted upon would bring vice into society; such
1 Mount Henneth, Ballantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., p. 117.
* Ballantyne's Novelists Library.
176 The French Revolution
being the case it was the editor's duty to point out
the sophistry upon which they were founded."
The charges against Bage are various. He has
"wandered into the wastes of scepticism. His
religious opinions are those of a sectary who has
reasoned himself into an infidel . . . and could be
a friend neither to the Church of England nor to the
doctrine she teaches." His code of ethics is un-
sound, based upon "the self-sufficient morality of
modern philosophy. " z Scott had no great opinion
of the novel as a vehicle for influencing public
thought, or it is questionable whether any amount
of literary merit would have induced him to include
Bage in his collection.
(2) The extreme nature of the religious and eth-
ical principles we have considered is somewhat less
apparent after the lapse of a century. But for the
warning preface, we should hardly be in a position
to realize how dangerous Robert Bage appeared to
his conservative contemporaries. The charge of
prejudice which Scott brings against Bage's politi-
cal point of view must be taken more seriously.
His opinions of state affairs [he shrewdly suggests],
were perhaps a little biased by frequent visits of the
excisemen who levied taxes on his commodities for
the purpose of maintaining a war which he disapproved
of. It is most natural that a person who considered
tax-gatherers extortioners, and soldiers who were
paid by the taxes, as licensed murderers, should
conceive the whole existing state of human affairs to
1 Ballantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., preface p. xxvi.
And the English Novel 177
be wrong; and if he was conscious of talent and the
power of composition, he might at the same time
fancy that he was called upon to put it to rights. l
This suggestion resolves itself into two separate
charges : the first, that Bage conceives the whole
existing system to be wrong ; secondly, that he bases
this opinion upon a wrongness in that portion of the
social system that affects him as an individual. If
we turn to the novels themselves for evidence, we
shall find that while both these statements are to
some extent true, neither is true without com-
ment and explanation.
There is a very real distinction, and one which
cannot be too constantly borne in mind in our
discussion, between the man who denounces the
corruptions and abuses into which society has
fallen, and the man who believes these abuses to
be inherent in the very structure of society, the
direct and inevitable result of the existing system.
It is the distinction between the Reformer and the
Revolutionist. Holcroft, Godwin, and Shelley are
Revolutionists by nature, Radicals in the true
sense of the word; their axe is laid to the root of
society, and no judicious prunings and purifications
will satisfy them. Bage, on the contrary, in his
first four novels nowhere implies that "the whole
existing state of affairs is wrong, " and he certainly
has no intention of putting it right by propaganda
1 Ballantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., preface, p. xxvi.
178 The French Revolution
The following is fairly typical of the nature of
his criticisms of society. In Barham Downs, Sir
Ambrose Archer writes to a friend :
I also, Mr. Councillor Brevity, am a man of im-
portance, a public man sir, of the patriotic gender.
I am returned from a meeting called an association,
the object of which is to call upon Parliament with a
loud voice for the redress of our grievances. And
what are your grievances says a well pensioned gentle-
man, Mr. T'otherside. The Crown hath acquired too
much influence in the worst of all possible ways,
corruption. That our representatives injure their
health by too Jong sitting. That as we never saw
the least possible benefit from engaging in the Ameri-
can war, we see as little from its continuance. Fin-
ally, that the ministers carry their contempt for
money (public money, we mean) to an extreme. l
Bage considers the Administration corrupt,
negligent, and inefficient. He believes that popu-
lar elections are reduced to a farce. His final
warnings and denunciations, however, are directed
not against tyranny and oppression but against the
growing extravagance and love of display. The
luxury and ostentation of those who have accu-
mulated large fortunes have corrupted all classes
of society. He looks back wistfully to the begin-
ning of the century (before the Industrial Revolu-
tion), "when nabobs were not."
It is the last two novels, written after the out-
1 Battantyne's Novelists Library, vol. ix., p. 294.
And the English Novel 179
break of the French Revolution (not included in
Scott's collection) , which give Scott a certain basis
for the first half of his statement. The storm of
radical philosophies which accompanied the politi-
cal phenomena on the continent, and their English
interpretations in the works of such men as God-
win and Paine, served to generalize Bage's spe-
cific dissatisfactions with the Government. The
reaction that came with the outbreak of war in
1793, and the harsh repressive measures adopted
toward Revolutionists crystallized his theories into
a demand for genuinely radical changes. Man As
He Is and Man As He Is Not are, as we have seen,
conscious expressions of a political point of view.
Bage at this time endorses the Rights of Man,
considers the government of the United States
on the whole the most perfect in existence, and has
good hopes that in the end France will return to
liberty and peace. But be it observed that even
in the height of his Revolutionary fervour Bage
desires no anarchistic Utopia. He merely ex-
presses a growing conviction that the maladjust-
ments of his time lie too deep to be reached by
reform. In no single paragraph does he declare it
essential that England should become a republic;
but that is implied as an alternative to changes
in the existing form almost as sweeping.
We may, I think, admit the truth of Scott's
second charge, that Bage's political theories are
largely the outgrowth of his practical experience,
without reflecting at all upon the disinterestedness
i8o The French Revolution
of our genial paper manufacturer. As a successful
business man and a humane and intelligent
employer, he was in a position to realize all the
maladjustments arising from the Industrial Revolu-
tion. Hence there is a definiteness and practicality
in his ideals of government that is lacking in the
work of professional literary men like Godwin and
Holcroft. Moreover, if Bage's opinions were
coloured by his life, it is also true that his life
conformed to his opinions. It is from the little
brick-floored cottage beside his own prosperous
factory that he directs his shafts of satire against
the money-snobs, great and small.
SECTION 2 : NOVELS REPRESENTING MISCELLANEOUS
In considering the work of those novelists most
completely imbued with the Revolutionary philo-
sophies and the novels written in opposition to
them, it is apparent that we have by no means
covered our field. As in every strongly marked
intellectual movement, the opinions of the full
adherents of Revolutionism were reflected in vary-
ing degrees by a large number of sympathizers.
These range from an almost complete acceptance
of the doctrines of Paine and Godwin to the merest
Whig liberalism, or to a Sentimentalism that
vaguely acknowledges a kinship with that of
Robert Bage, the only novelist of this class whose
And the English Novel 181
life and works merit detailed consideration, may
be taken as typical. He represents the intelligent
and disinterested Radical ; unaffected by the ab-
surdities of Pure Reason, yet perceiving a funda-
mental justice in many of the charges brought
against existing conditions. Our discussion of Bage
may be supplemented by a brief review of a num-
ber of novels illustrating other types of Revolu-
Perhaps the earliest example of tendenz fiction
we need examine is a curious old novel entitled
The Man in the Moon: or, Travels Into the Lunar
Regions by the Man of the People (1783, anon.).
This is a satire on Charles James Fox, probably
by a fellow Whig of a somewhat more conservative
temper. Already, it appears, there were fore-
shadowings of these doctrines which later seemed
so dangerous to men of the type of Burke.
The plan of the satire is rather fantastic. The
Man of the Moon determines to enlighten and
reform C s F x, called The Man of the People,
a statesman of ability who has been led into
demagoguery by his love of power. His edu-
cation is conducted by a trip to the moon, which
a student (the author), is assigned to the duty of
reporting. In the moon, Fox meets and converses
with great orators and statesmen of the past,
and sees the punishments necessary to purify
them from the faults of ambition, self-interest,
It is significant, however, that throughout the
1 82 The French Revolution
book there are continual praises of "ancient
republican virtues," the "foolish titles which at
present prevail in Europe" 1 are denounced, and
the forerunners of the Pure Reason philosophers
are quoted with approval. Hume is made a sort
of tutelary spirit in the moon. "Price, Clarke,
Wollaston and others who maintain that moral
distinctions are perceived by the active energy
of the intellect are right in their speculations." 2
Fox is much impressed by his trip to the moon, and
promises "not to have any hand in destroying the
constitution of England," or at least that: "It
will proceed from a dread of being excluded from
office if I shall ever be reduced to so direful a
In 1789, the date of the actual beginning of the
French Revolution, there appeared two novels
containing no very startling doctrines but signifi-
cant of the trend of popular interest. The Bastile,
or The Adventures of Charles Townley (anon.) is
merely a pleasant satire on fashionable France.
The author states in the first chapter his nearest
approach to a "doctrine":
A vanity of illustrious ancestry is a prevailing and
universal passion, though the most cursory observer
must perceive that there is much real honour to be
met with among men whose arms are not blazoned
in the herald's office. 4
The Amicable Quixote, or, The Enthusiasm of
1 The Man in the Moon, vol. ii., p. 39. a Ibid., vol. i., p. 139.
Ibid., vol. ii., p. 35. The Bastile, vol. i., p. i.
And the English Novel 183
Friendship (1789, anon.) is a novel of the "ruling
passion" variety. Here, too, there is considerable
satire directed against pride of birth. The hero
wins his lady through serving her in the disguise
of a butler. 1 The lady herself is not without
interest. She might almost be considered a proto-
type of "Lady Susan." 3 She had "most noble
sentiments and very high ideas of propriety; but
this sense of decorum would sometimes evaporate
in the vindication of her own liberty." 3 Evi-
dently this type of heroine was not unknown before
the Vindication of the Rights of Women.
In 1794 appeared an adaptation from the Ger-
man of Professor Kramer's Hermon of Unna: A
Series of Adventures of the Fifteenth Century, with a
preface pointing out that "the horrors of the Star
Chamber, the Inquisition, and the Bastile" are
among the "consequences that follow when men
yield up their understandings to the dictate of
authority. Let us remember this, and con-
gratulate ourselves that we are born in an age of
illumination, and at a time when the artifices of
superstition and tyranny are fated to vanish
before the touch of truth." 4
The rebellion of the Vendee furnished material
for at least one novel, partly historical and partly
tendenz in treatment, which has Charlotte Cor day
1 Cf. Bage's James Wallace, pub. the preceding year.
3 Cf. Robert and Adela, discussed in Chapter VII., Sec. 3.
3 Amicable Quixote, vol. i. f p. 30.
Hermon of Unna, preface, p. i.
1 84 The French Revolution
for a heroine and Marat for villain. 1 The ficti-
tious part of the story centres in the "Countess
de Narbonne, " an "Aristocrat" who has been
forced by the Commune under Marat to marry a
coarse and brutal hanger-on of the Convention.
Distrusted alike by her own party and by her
husband's Republican associates, the unhappy
Countess lives in proud seclusion on her estate in
the Vendee. Charlotte Cordet, 2 whose father owns
a neighbouring estate, becomes her devoted friend.
The Countess gives refuge to a mysterious Princess
Victorine, a daughter of Emperor Joseph by a
morganatic marriage, whom the Royalists wish to
raise to the throne of France. After many vicissi-
tudes the Countess escapes to England, with
Victorine and her lover. Marat has persecuted
them relentlessly, and finally causes the death of
Charlotte's father and lover. The novel closes with
his assassination by Charlotte and her execution.
Although the author is evidently more interested
in the dramatic than in the philosophical values of
the French Revolution, she makes numerous signi-
ficant comments. Her own attitude towards the
Revolution is a Whiggism, conservative when com-
pared with even so mild a radical as Bage, very
liberal in contrast to that of the country at large.
1 Adelaide de Narbonne, with Memoirs of Charlotte de Cordet,
1800. " By the author of Henry of Northumberland" (evidently,
a woman; speaks of herself as "she").
2 This curious spelling of the heroine's name occurs without
apparent significance. No effort is made to conceal her identity
under a fictitious personality.
And the English Novel 185
The errors committed in its different stages are by
no means approved of by me [she writes], but I exe-
crate rather the necessity of the times from which
they proceed, than the unfortunate individuals who
are forced to have recourse to them. *
She quotes Hume with approval ; but she nowhere
falls into the popular error of dividing her charac-
ters into sheep and goats on the basis of their
political convictions. Charlotte is described as
"a Republican, but a rational one. She wished for
reforms in a government which even the most
sanguine advocates for monarchy cannot deny
wanted them." 2 Her lover, on the other hand,
was an aristocrat; "but his principles, like her
own, were rational, and of course tended equally to
the same end, though the means used for attempt-
ing it might vary a little. " 3
Another novel appealing by its title to popular
interest in the Revolution is Arthur Mervin, or,
Memoirs of the Year 1793, by Charles Brockden
Brown, 1803. The action takes place chiefly in
Philadelphia. The author is obviously somewhat
influenced by Godwin; but his interests are
humanitarian rather than political. 4
Less Revolutionary and more distinctively hu-
manitarian in its purpose is Asmodeus, or, The
1 Adelaide de Narbonne, vol. i., p. 185.
2 Ibid., vol. i., p. 31.
3 Ibid., vol. i., p. 154.
Cf. section on Godwin, for connexion between ideas of
Revolution and humanitarianism.
1 86 The French Revolution
Devil in London (1808, anon.). The preface
describes this as a novel of anecdote, with machin-
ery borrowed from Le Sage. Few aspects of Lon-
don life escape the shrewd, satiric comment of
Asmodeus, but his severest strictures are directed
against the prison system, private mad-houses
conducted without supervision, and ostentatious
and inefficient charities. Among other subjects
discussed are freedom of the press, duelling,
fashionable extravagance, the French police, and
the evil influences of Methodists, Illuminati, and
other types of enthusiast. There is an interesting
passage in the discussion of suicide :
Here rest the bones of a woman of uncommon
talents and singular opinions. Her writings will be
long remembered, although their dangerous tendency
will be regretted; for whatever error attached either
to her life or opinions was the effect of principle but
of principle founded on the chimeras of a visionary. 1
Naturally, the anti-slavery movement was one
of great significance for both humanitarian and
Revolutionary sympathizers. Since the time of
Oronooko, the noble-minded negro had been a
familiar figure in sentimental fiction. To the
Rousseauist he acquired a peculiar interest as
exemplifying primitive man in an ideal state of
nature. To the Godwinian philosopher, chattel
slavery was an especially flagrant violation of
1 It will be remembered that Mary Wollstonecraft twice
And the English Novel 187
political justice. To the practical reformer, the
slave trade was one of the burning issues of the
time. As early as 1780 Burke had prepared a
code for the gradual abolition of the slave traffic.
In 1788 he "spoke strongly to the effect that the
trade was one which ought to be totally abolished,
but if this was not now possible it ought to be regu-
lated at once. " x
In 1792 appeared the best known of the anti-
slavery novels, Mackenzie's Slavery, or, The Times.
The plot is characteristic: Zimza, king of Tonou-
wah, an eighteenth century Oronooko, sends his
son to England to be educated, under the care of
his friend Hamilton, with the instruction, "Re-
mind him of his dignity as a man, but let him
claim no consequence from his birth." 2 The
negro prince, "full of the grandeur of untaught
soul," makes the usual naive comments on civili-
zation, cannot be taught the distinction between
courtesy and lies, etc., etc. Meanwhile Zimza is
captured and sold as a slave. The prince and
Hamilton rescue him, and, after sundry adventures
in England and France, they return together to
the virtuous (and uncivilized) realm of Tonouwah.
1 Lecky, England in the Eighteenth Century, vol. vi., p. 219.
The slave trade was not abolished, however, until 1807. It seems
a curious bit of irony that it was the panic created by the French
Revolution that delayed this reform. Danton testified that one
of the motives of the abolition of slavery in the French colonies
was the hope of inciting the negroes in the colonies of England
to revolt; hardly a step to conciliate English opponents of eman-
cipation. 2 Slavery, or, the Times, vol. i., p. 4.
1 88 The French Revolution
Mackenzie's comments on the French Revolution
are somewhat adverse; he is a pure Rousseauist,
not a Republican. His Frenchmen tell Hamil-
ton: "The liberty we contend for blossoms sweetly
in your nation. Had our mode of government
been mild as yours, the rights of royalty would
have been equally secure." 1 Even an American
is made to say: "When I fought in America, it was
to protect my property. Even then my heart spoke
in favour of monarchy ; and though I detest all arbi-
trary power, I am much against unprincipled
At about the same time there were published
in England adaptations of a somewhat similar
novel from the French. At least two versions
appeared, under different titles: Itanoko, or The
Noble Minded Negro, and The Negro Equalled by
Few Europeans. This is an appeal to the prin-
ciples of pure reason rather than to Rousseauistic
benevolence. The plot is of course a variation of
the usual theme: the noble savage kidnapped into
An indirect method of attacking or defending
the institution of monarchy was the publication of
semi-fictitious memoirs. In 1794 there appeared
an English adaptation of a French work, Interest-
ing Memoirs of Marie Antoinette, Ci-devant Queen
of France. One would infer from this highly
scandalous narrative that her execution was
1 Slavery, vol. ii., p. 237. ' Ibid., vol. ii., p. 215,
And the English Novel 189
Another fictitious memoir, published soon after,
presented royalty in a more favourable light.
Henrietta, Princess Royal of England, Daughter of
King Charles I. (1796) professes to be a narrative
by the Comtesse de Lafayette (grandmother of
the Revolutionary Marquis), which was brought to
light by the sacking of the Louvre, and immedi-
ately suppressed in France by the Revolutionary
The censure of royalty by no means confined
itself to that of other nations. In 1812 appeared
The Spirit of the Book, or, Memoirs of Caroline,
Princess of Hapsbourg: A Political and Amatory
Romance, by Captain T. Ashe. This makes its
appeal rather to a love of scandal than to any
political sentiments, and but for occasional spiteful
attacks on the morale of courts and kings in general
would not call for mention here. x
The novels of Thomas Love Peacock have some
claim to be included in our discussion. There is
scarcely one of them which does not express Re-
volutionary sentiments. Maid Marian (1818)
especially contains many passages of political the-
orizing that might have been written by Shelley
or Godwin himself. A detailed consideration of
Peacock's novels would, however, add little to our
discussion. Peacock's Revolutionism is at best
sympathetic and derivative. His intimate asso-
ciation with the Shelley group, together with a
1 It should perhaps be made clear that the Charlotte of Haps-
bourg here mentioned was Princess of Wales.
The English Novel
certain irritable dislike of the established regime in
Church and State, gave a Revolutionary bent to his
satire. But the vital impetus of Revolutionism
had spent itself before it reached Peacock. He is
the echo of an echo. In spirit, if not altogether in
actual chronology, his novels belong a generation
later than the period we are considering.
This part of our discussion might be expanded
almost indefinitely. So extensive is the material
available and so varied the shades of opinion
represented that our selection must necessarily
be somewhat arbitrary. Little is to be gained by
multiplying illustration. It is already clear that
novels dealing with the ideas and tendencies
associated with the French Revolution represent
almost as many different points of view as there
were novelists. We are dealing with very complex
reactions to a very complex movement ; it is im-
possible to do more than indicate certain general
types of opinion.
SOME TYPICAL LADY NOVELISTS OF THE
SECTION I: MRS. ELIZABETH INCHBALD
ONE of the literary features of the later
eighteenth century in England was the
large crop of Lady Novelists. A Lady Novelist,
be it observed, is altogether a different thing from
a woman who writes novels. The latter may some-
times allow us to forget her sex ; the former, never.
There is a soft rustle of skirts in every page, from
the little bobs and curtsies of her preface to the
gentle severity of the sermonette with which she
concludes. Her style is redolent of delicate
femininity. She is the most charming of Senti-
mentalists, and withal the most implacable of
moralists. Her didacticism lifts hands of demure
horror at any suspected laxness of opinion.
She worships the proprieties. Whoso offends
against decorum comes straightway to an evil end.
Even heroines languishing under a false accusation
get small sympathy from the author. They should
192 The French Revolution
have been more cautious in avoiding the very
appearance of indiscretion. And yet the Lady
Novelist has a Christian charity for handsome,
rakish heroes if they promise reform in the last
Her favourite virtues are the domestic ones:
filial and parental affection, wifely submission and
fidelity, patience, good nature, economy, charity
to the poor, devoutness in religious observance.
These she thoroughly understands, and never
tires of illustrating.
If we must smile over the works of the Lady
Novelist, let it be with respect, for these are the
virtues of delight without which no fine heroisms
can make life tolerable. There was a surprising
amount of good sense under her gentility. Her
world had no real heights or depths; but at least
it was a sane and comfortable one. Moreover,
not infrequently her Sentimentalism yields to an
exquisite sense of humour, and a rare gift for
satirizing the smaller vices and foibles of mankind.
All honour to Lady Novelists; for the greatest
among them was no less a person than the in-
There was little natural affinity between the
Lady Novelists and the Revolution. That move-
ment of revolt was more concerned to demand
the rights of women than to exalt the beneficent
influence of "the fair sex." But there were some
few gentle feminine souls who through their
humanitarian sympathies, the influence of Rous-
And the English Novel 193
seau, or a personal association with the leaders
of English Revolutionism, were swept into the
heterodox currents of the time.
Among the most prominent of these was the
pretty actress and dramatist, Elizabeth Inchbald.
Her life was in no way noteworthy. Elizabeth
was the youngest daughter of John Simpson, a
Suffolk farmer. As a child, her chief characteristics
were her beauty and the love of admiration that
was always her ruling passion. She seems to have
chosen her profession early, and made heroic
efforts to overcome the impediment in her speech
that threatened to unfit her for it. As a stage-
struck little girl of sixteen she began secret negotia-
tions with a local theatrical manager. Apparently
he gave her some encouragement, for "Richard
Griffiths" appears in her diary in ecstatic childish
capitals, with the inscription: "Each dear letter
of thy name is harmony." Two years later she
ran away to try her fortune in London, where she
wandered about for several days before her brother-
in-law found her, frightened and penniless, and
took her home with him. While visiting her sister
she made the acquaintance of a middle-aged actor
named Joseph Inchbald, whom she married soon
afterwards, apparently in despair of being able to
make her way in London alone. Through his
assistance she obtained the coveted entree to the
stage. But one fancies she soon perceived the un-
wisdom of taking a husband when what she really
wanted was a chaperon. After seven years of not
194 The French Revolution
altogether happy married life and many vicissi-
tudes as an actress, Mrs. Inchbald was left a widow
at the age of twenty-six and never ventured into
matrimony again. Like Holcroft, she made but
an indifferent success on the stage, took to writing
plays and novels as a means of increasing her
income, and finally gave up acting altogether. By
1783 we find her settled in London, a prominent
figure in literary society.
Elizabeth Inchbald had three merits which no
one denied : beauty, cleverness, and an unblemished
reputation. Of the value of these she was fully
conscious. There are rumours of her throwing a
kettle of hot water over one not sufficiently respect-
ful admirer, and pulling the hair of another. In
telling the story afterwards she concluded: "Oh, if
he had wo-wo-worn a wig, I had been ru-ruined!"
She received many offers of marriage, but none
sufficiently advantageous to tempt her. There
was a cool, calculating shrewdness under all her
coquetry and caprice.
Perhaps her finest characteristic was her perfect
freedom from snobbishness, and her loyalty to the
humble ways of her own home. Her style of living
was economical in the extreme; she escapes the
charge of penuriousness only because of the gener-
ous uses she made of her savings. She wore gowns,
Mrs. Shelley tells us, "not worth a shilling," and
there was one occasion when a carriage bearing a
crest waited while she finished scrubbing her attic
room, and then drove her to visit her sister who
And the English Novel 195
was a barmaid near London. Godwin describes
her as "a piquante mixture between a lady and a
The one absorbing passion of Elizabeth Inch-
bald's life seems to have been her love of admira-
tion; especially masculine admiration, for she was
never a woman's woman. She was jealous of
rivalry. Once when she found herself beside Mrs.
Siddons in the Green Room, "suddenly looking at
her magnificent neighbor, she said 'No, I won't
s-s-sit by you ; you're t-t-too handsome ! " ' 2 But it
was not often that she met with serious rivalry.
It was said that : "When Mrs. Inchbald came into a
room and sat down in a chair in the middle of it as
was her wont, every man gathered around it, and
it was vain for any other woman to attempt to
gain attention." 3
The account of Mrs. Inchbald's relations with
the other novelists of our group is somewhat
amusing. Report said that : ' ' Mrs. Inchbald was in
love with Godwin, Godwin with Miss Alderson,
Miss Alderson with Holcroft, and Holcroft with
Mrs. Inchbald. " 4 Reading between the lines, with
the aid of the diaries and letters of the parties
concerned, one suspects that the truth of the
matter was something like this. Both Godwin and
Holcroft were Mrs. Inchbald's intimate friends;
1 Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 74.
2 Taylor, Records of My Life, vol. i., pp. 347-409.
* Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 74.
.Brightwell, Memorials of Amelia Opie, p. 60.
196 The French Revolution
there is ample indication that, at one time, had
she chosen to marry an impecunious literary
man, she might have had either of them. But
when Amelia Alderson came to London, in 1794,
she made quite an impression on these too-sus-
ceptible disciples of pure reason. Elizabeth Inch-
bald was not the woman to give up an admirer
willingly. She resorted to crude, tale-bearing
methods, which aroused Amelia's resentment and
inspired her with a natural and laudable feminine
desire to spoil Elizabeth's monopoly. 1 Fortified
with this noble motive and a becoming new bonnet 2
Amelia Alderson entered the lists against the vete-
ran coquette, with such success that before she left
London, Holcroft had been refused outright and
the austere Godwin was cherishing her discarded
slipper as a tender relic. 3
Before we leave this digression into the gossip of
a century ago, there is a more serious charge of
jealousy that must be brought against Elizabeth
Inchbald. It is said that she wept at the news of
Godwin's marriage. Whatever her real feelings
were, she, bohemian of bohemians, suddenly
developing scruples for the proprieties, took oc-
1 She writes: " Mrs. I. appears to me jealous of G.'s attention to
me, so she makes him believe I prefer H. to him. ... Is not this
very womanish?" Brightwell, Memorials of Amelia Opie, p. 60.
2 Mrs. Brightwell describes the bonnet, in her Memorials. It
was light blue, with blue plumes.
3 Thackerary, Book of Sibyls, pp. 161 f. : "Will you give me no-
thing to keep for your sake? " says Godwin, parting from Amelia,
"not even your slipper?"
And the English Novel 197
casion to insult Mary Wollstonecraft publicly, and
injure her by private report.
One source of Mrs. Inchbald's Revolutionism is
obvious : the influence of her friendship with God-
win and Holcroft. There is another, not quite so
obvious. We have noted the curious affinity
between Revolutionism and the various dissenting
bodies. Mrs. Inchbald was a devout Roman
Catholic. At first glance it seems rather contra-
dictory that the creed which adheres most rigidly
to the principle of authority should have tended
to produce a sympathy with the political doctrines
of revolt. But Catholics and dissenters suffered
alike under legal discrimination. Fellowship in
oppression produces strange alliances. 1
Whatever the source, Mrs. Inchbald's Revolu-
tionism was of the mildest. One of her plays, Every
One Has His Fault (1793), was absurdly accused of
having a seditious tendency, by a periodical called
The True Briton. 2 On the other hand, in 1792,
another play of hers, The Massacre, dealing severely
with the atrocities of the Terror, was seriously
objected to by Holcroft and Godwin. It was
written without any doctrinary intention, however,
for Mrs. Inchbald writes to Godwin: " It was your
1 Lest this seem a fanciful connexion, we may quote a passage
from Elwood's Memoirs of Literary Ladies (vol. i., p. 20): "Be-
longing as she did to the Roman Catholic community Mrs. I.
necessarily advocated liberal opinions. "
'Tobler, Elizabeth Inchbald, p. 39. The humanitarian ten-
dencies of her other plays we will discuss in Chapter IX., Section
2, of this thesis.
198 The French Revolution
hinting to me that it might do harm which gave
me the first idea that it might do good by prevent-
ing future massacres." 1
There is a record of a Satire on the Times (now
lost), of which she writes:
I said to myself, how pleased Mr. Godwin will be
at my making the King so avaricious, and how
pleased the King will be at my making him so good at
the conclusion. He will . . . generously pardon me all
that I have said about equality in the book, merely for
giving him a good character. 2
Mrs. Inchbald was the author of two novels, both
of which are generally credited with Revolutionary
tendencies. The first, A Simple Story, was begun
in 1777, but was not published until 1791. This is
really two novels thrown together. In the first
part, Miss Milner, an orphan, is left as a ward to a
young priest named Dorriforth. The frivolous,
pleasure-loving girl leads her guardian an anxious
life of it, and ends by secretly falling in love with
him. Dorriforth unexpectedly falls heir to an
earldom. The Pope dispenses him from his vows
in order to keep the succession in a Catholic
family. He marries Miss Milner. An interval of
seventeen years elapses before the second part of
the novel begins. Meanwhile, Miss Milner has
1 Paul, William Godwin, vol. i., p. 74. The publisher liked the
subject no better than Godwin did, and the play was suppressed,
though printed, before publication.
2 Ibid., vol. i., p. 141.
And the English Novel 199
proved unfaithful to her husband, and he has cast
her off, together with his infant daughter. On the
death of her mother the Earl consents to let Lady
Matilda live in a secluded part of his castle, but
only on condition that he is never to see her. The
Earl's nephew, Rushbrook, whom he has made his
heir in Matilda's place, falls in love with her. Of
course the novel ends with a reconciliation and a
wedding. The moral is, "the pernicious effects of
an improper education, in the destiny which
attended the unthinking Miss Milner. On the
opposite side, what may be hoped from that school
of prudence through adversity, in which Matilda
was bred." 1 On the ground of this moral, of
which we hear nothing until the last page, A
Simple Story has been commonly classified among
the tendenz novels written to illustrate the educa-
tional theories of Rousseau. As there is absolutely
no emphasis on education anywhere else in the
novel, it seems more probable that the moral was
merely tacked on in an attempt to give unity to
what is obviously two separate stories.
A more genuine interest lies in the fact that Miss
Milner is supposed to represent the author herself,
and Dorriforth, John Kemble (the actor), who
left a Catholic seminary to go on the stage, and for
whom Mrs. Inchbald is credited with a decided
The second of Mrs. Inchbald's novels, Nature
and Art (1796), shows more clearly defined Re-
1 A Simple Story, p. 372.
2oo The French Revolution
volutionary doctrines. The story is built on the
favourite device of two brothers with contrasting
dispositions. Henry, the younger, helps William
to an education and a start in the Church. As
William obtains ecclesiastical preferment and
makes a wealthy marriage, he neglects his humbler
brother, who is only a fiddler by profession. Henry
goes to Africa, taking with him an infant son.
After several years of Robinson Crusoe adventures
among more or less noble savages, he sends young
Henry, then a boy of twelve, to England to be
under his uncle's care. William also has a son of
about the same age. Here begins the contrast
between the fashionable and the Rousseauistic
education. Young William has been trained,
parrot-like, by tutors who have never taught him
to think. Young Henry, on the contrary, sees the
world through unsophisticated eyes and formu-
lates his own opinions.
He would call compliments, lies reserve he would
call pride stateliness, affectation and for the words
war and battle, he constantly substituted the word
He cannot seem to grasp the conception that the
poor are born to serve the rich. Nor can he per-
ceive how really comfortable the poor would be
but for their laziness and thriftlessness. A lord
speaks of his charitable gifts:
1 Nature and Art, p. 412.
And the English Novel 201
"How benevolent!" exclaimed the Dean.
"How prudent!" exclaimed Henry.
"What do you mean by prudent?" asked Lord
" Why, then my Lord, " answered Henry, "I thought
it was prudent in you to give a little, lest the poor,
driven to despair, should take all." 1
The two boys grow to manhood. Both fall
in love with village girls. William deserts his
sweetheart, Agnes, whom he never intended to
marry. She attempts to kill her child. Henry
saves it, and gives it to his fiancee Rebecca to care
for. Agnes is driven out of the village by the rigid
virtue of the lady of the manor. She wanders to
London, and there, unable to find employment,
drifts from bad to worse. William meanwhile has
become a successful lawyer, and finally risen to the
bench. Agnes is brought before him for trial on a
charge of counterfeiting. He does not recognize
But when William placed the fatal velvet on his
head and rose to pronounce her sentence, she started
with a kind of convulsive motion, retreated a step or
two back, and lifting up her hands, with a scream,
"Oh, not from YOU!"
Serene and dignified as if no such exclamation had
been uttered, William delivered the fatal speech, end-
ing with " Dead, dead, dead. "
She fainted as he closed the period, and was carried
1 Nature and Art, p. 433.
2O2 The French Revolution
back to prison in a swoon; while he adjourned court
to go to dinner. x
Agnes leaves a letter which makes William's
subsequent life a prey to remorse. Henry, less
successful but more Chappy, rescues his father from
Africa, marries his faithful Rebecca, and settles
down as a contented farmer.
Professor Cross classes this novel with Caleb
Williams as "the best examples of the distinctively
' victim-of-society ' story. ' ' 2 The presence of other
characteristic features of Revolutionary fiction is
obvious. Young Henry is the unsophisticated
critic of civilization of the type of Hermsprong. 3
The satire on lawyers and clergy recalls Hugh
Trevor. The efforts of Agnes to find employment
resemble those of Jemima, in Maria or the Wrongs
of Women. 4
On the whole, however, we must conclude that
Mrs. Inchbald is a Revolutionist only in her
humanitarian sympathies and her dislike of certain
specific oppressions and intolerances. She has
more in common with Robert Bage than with men
of the type of Godwin and Holcroft who are
Revolutionists from theory and conviction as well
as from sympathy.
1 Nature and Art, p. 527. Mrs. Inchbald's sense of the drama-
tic value of this situation has recently been justified by the
success of a play built on the same idea. (Madam X.)
3 Cross, The English Novel, p. 91.
s Cf. note on Hermsprong, in Chapter VI., Section I, of this
Cf. Chapter VIII., Section 2, of this discussion.
And the English Novel 203
SECTION 2 : MRS. AMELIA ALDERSON OPIE
Perhaps the pleasantest of our Lady Novelists,
in personality and in literary style, is Mrs. Opie
(1769-1853). Throughout her long life she was
always in sympathy with the progressive move-
ments of the time. The most interesting people
of two generations figure in the pages of her
Amelia Alderson was the only child of a Norwich
physician, a Unitarian, of radical political prin-
ciples. Her parents were deeply interested in
various humanitarian movements. It is to these
early influences that Mrs. Opie ascribed her life-
long zeal for the cause of negro emancipation.
In 1794 she went to London for a visit, and
there became acquainted with all the literary
Radicals of the Joseph Johnson circle. It was on
this visit that she aroused the jealousy of Mrs.
Inchbald by her flirtations with the Pure Reason
philosophers, of which the letters of the two ladies
have left us an amusing account. Miss Alderson
attended the trials for High Treason of Hardy,
Tooke, and Holcroft. She wrote home indignant
accounts of ministerial oppression: "What a pass
are things come to when even dissenters lick the
hand that oppressed them! Hang these politics!
How they haunt me! Would it not be better,
think you, to hang the framers of them? " I Later,
she writes to a friend :
1 Brightwell, Amelia Opie, vol. i., p. 47.
204 The French Revolution
I had reason to believe that if the "felons" about
to be tried were not "acquitted felons" certain friends
of mine would have emigrated to America, and my
beloved father would have been induced to accom-
pany them. 1
On a second visit to London, Miss Alderson met the
portrait painter John Opie, to whom she was
married in 1798.
In 1805 she visited France, where she went with
Ann Plumptre to visit Helen Maria Williams. 2
She also met Fox and Kosciuszko, the Polish pa-
triot, and saw Buonaparte, then First Consul. In
1807 the death of Mr. Opie ended her entirely
happy married life, and the young widow returned
to her father's home in Norwich. The rest of her
life was uneventful. She made the acquaintance
of Wordsworth, Southey, Sidney Smith, Sir Walter
Scott, Mme. de Stael, and Mme. de Genlis, all of
whom thought well of her literary work. But her
closest friends were the Gurneys, especially Eliza-
beth Gurney Fry, Howard's successor in prison
reform. It was undoubtedly through the influence
of Elizabeth Fry that Mrs. Opie was led in 1825
to become a member of the Society of Friends.
We may say a word here on the subject of Mrs.
Opie's previous sectarian affiliations. In 1814 she
left the Unitarians with whom her earliest connex-
1 Brightwell, Amelia Opie, vol. i., pp. 48 f.
2 Two literary ladies of well-known Revolutionary sentiments.
For Ann Plumptre, cf. following Section.
And the English Novel 205
ions had naturally been formed. Her biographer
Many of her relations on her mother's side had been
united for generations past to the Wesleyan Method-
ists, which consideration naturally disposed her to
a union with that sect of worshippers. l
Her final decision in favour of the Society of
Friends was a very natural one for a Revolutionist.
Since the time of William Penn that sect had been
noted for their sympathy with the most liberal
political opinions. It will be remembered that
Algernon Sydney helped draft the constitution of
Pennsylvania. Many of the finest doctrines of the
Revolutionists were identical with those of the
Friends. Bage has been generally credited with
being a member of that Society, and Holcroft was
referred to as "a sort of natural Quaker." 2
Mrs. Opie must have made a somewhat amus-
ing Friend, one fancies. The fondness for pretty
clothes that was one of her most endearingly
human characteristics was not laid aside when she
put on the "plain" dress. She wore the gown of
grey, but it was of pale grey satin, with a modish
little train, and we hear of "the crisp fichu crossed
over the breast, which set off to advantage the
charming little plump figure with its rounded
1 Brightwell, Amelia Opie, p. 193.
1 Cf. Chapter II., Chapter IV., and Chapter V., Section i, note
p. 172, for previous discussion of Friends in this thesis.
206 The French Revolution
lines. ' ' T Her calling cards bore her name ' ' Amelia
Opie, " in the "plain" style, scrupulously without
prefix: but there was an embossed wreath of pink
roses about the name! But if the vanities did
rather cling to her after she had renounced the
world, there was one sacrifice which she made in all
seriousness. She gave up writing fiction, and
even recalled a novel which was in the hands of
her publisher, at no small loss and inconvenience
to herself. A book of anecdotes, under the title
Illustrations of Lying, was her nearest approach
to fiction after she joined the Friends.
In 1830 Mrs. Opie revisited Paris. She records
her emotion in seeing again the scene of her youth-
ful enthusiasms in some verses, very popular in her
own time, beginning: "At sight of thee, O Tricolor,
I seem to see youth's hour return." She met
Lafayette, whom she calls, "The hero of my child-
hood, the idol of my youth!" 2
One incident of this visit to Paris is worth re-
cording. Mrs. Opie writes to a friend:
The Paris intellectual world runs mad just now
after a new sect, (a new religion they call it), the Saint
Simoniennes : the founder is a St. Simon, of the Due de
St. Simon's family. His disciples preach up equality
of property. The thing is, I suspect, more political
than anything else in its object; but on a first day
there is a religious preaching, and the room overflows ;
so it does on a week day evening when there are only
1 Thackeray, Book of Sibyls, p. 189.
* Brightwell, Amelia Opie, p. 234.
And the English Novel 207
lectures. ... I have vainly tried to read their book
of doctrine. I could not get on with it. But as they
agree with the Friends in two points, I am sometimes
tempted to go one evening. Nous verrons. x
This comment of one of the last survivors of the
older group of Revolutionists is not without a
certain interest. St. Simon was one of the earliest
of those Utopian socialists who were to some extent
the forerunners of the present Marxian Socialism.
It is curious that Mrs. Opie should be interested in
the St. Simoniennes only as a Friend. Surely in
the long years of the Reaction she must have
very completely forgotten the spirit of Holcroft,
of Godwin, and the rest of the London circle who
were her friends in the early nineties, or she would
have recognized the old social idealism under the
new form. She seems to have had no premonition
that this primarily economic, collectivistic Revolu-
tionism might be in some sense the successor to
the older, primarily political, individualistic Re-
volutionism of her youth. 2
Mrs. Opie was the author of ten works of fiction,
five of which were novels, the rest collections of
short stories. All contain some expression of her
liberal political belief (one can hardly call anything
so gentle Revolutionism). As it is obviously not
1 Brightwell, Amelia Opie, p. 263.
2 It will be remembered that Lucas classifies the Illuminati as
one of the sects of Revolutionary philosophers. (Chapter IV.)
St. Simon was, according to George Sand, high in the councils of
t^ ^ohteenth-century secret society of that name.
208 The French Revolution
worth our while to discuss all of these in detail,
we may confine ourselves to the two in which
Revolutionism plays the most important role, and
consider these as typical of the rest.
Adelina Mowbray, or Mother and Daughter (1804)
borrows its general idea from the life of Mary
Wollstonecraft, I but the plot as a whole is entirely
fictitious. Adelina Mowbray is the only daughter
of a wealthy widow, who poses as being very in-
tellectual. Mrs. Mowbray is especially fond of the
new and radical philosophies. Adelina, however,
accepts in all earnestness the theories which are
merely pose with her mother. Mother and
daughter make the acquaintance of the young
philosopher, Glenmurray, whose book against
marriage has greatly influenced Adelina. Glen-
murray, in love with Adelina, wishes to renounce
his theories and marry her; but she, enthusiastic
and ready for martyrdom, insists that they shall
scorn prejudice and dispense with the marriage
ceremony. Her mother, horrified, disowns her,
Little did I think you were so romantic, as to see no
difference between amusing one's imagination with new
theories and new systems, and acting upon them in
defiance of common custom and the received usages of
society. . . . The poetical philosophy which I have so
much delighted to study, has served me to ornament
my conversation, and make persons less enlightened
than myself wonder at the superior boldness of my
1 Cf. Chapter VIII., Section 2, of this thesis.
And the English Novel 209
fancy and the acuteness of my reasoning powers; but
I should as soon have thought of making this little
gold chain around my neck fasten the hall door, as act
upon the precepts laid down in those delightful books. z
Not a bad satire, this, on a certain type of lady
Revolutionist. Mrs. Opie is quite capable of
appreciating intellectual honesty.
For a number of years Adelina is happy with
Glenmurray, in spite of the occasional insults and
inconveniences to which her position subjects her.
But Glenmurray, always an invalid, goes into
consumption. As he is dying he repents of his
destructive philosophy. "As those opinions mili-
tated against the experience and custom of ages,
ought I not to have paused before I published, and
kept them back until they received the sanction
of my maturer judgment?" 2 He makes Adelina
promise that after his death she will marry his
cousin Berrendale, who will understand and pro-
tect her and her child. But in a few years Berren-
dale tires of her and deserts her. Left without
resources, she appeals to her mother, but receives
no answer. After a few years of struggle against
illness and poverty, she returns to her old home.
Her mother, she finds, had long ago forgiven her,
but had been prevented from receiving her letters.
Adelina dies, leaving her little daughter to her
mother's care, with the pathetic injunction :
1 Works of Mrs. Opie, -vol. i., p. 127.
1 Ibid., vol. i., p. 177.
210 The French Revolution
Oh ! Teach my Editha to be humble, teach her to
be slow to call the wisdom of ages contemptible pre-
judices; teach her no opinions that can destroy her
sympathies with general society, and make her an alien
to the hearts of those among whom she lives. *
As a bit of gentle good sense opposed to Pure
Reason absurdities, Adelina Mowbray is certainly
beyond criticism. As an interpretation of Mary
Wollstonecraft, if such were intended, it is not
unjust, but merely absurdly inadequate. Amelia
Opie was one of those simple, kindly souls to whom
the real power and originality of a mind like that of
Mary Wollstonecraft must remain forever a closed
book. Mrs. Opie did not misjudge her friend ; she
merely did not see quite all that she amounted to.
What was to Mary only one side of life, and that
not the most important, seems to Mrs. Opie to
blot out all the rest. If Godwin sat for Glen-
murray, the portrait is a flattering one.
Valentine's Eve (1816) is the only other one of
Mrs. Opie's in which Revolutionism is more than
incidental. General Shirley has disowned his son
for marrying beneath him. When the son is
killed in battle, the General relents and adopts
his granddaughter, Catherine Shirley, who has
grown to womanhood without his seeing her.
Catherine is visited in her new home by her foster-
sister, Lucy Merle. Mrs. Opie uses the girls to
illustrate two somewhat different ideals. Cather-
1 Mrs. Opie's Works, vol. i., p. 223.
And the English Novel 211
ine is a girl of enthusiastic religious principles.
Lucy represents the Revolutionary philosophy.
Her father was "one of the many republicans, or
democrats, some twenty years ago, whom proflig-
acy and poverty led to rally round that respect-
able standard, which was originally erected from
the purest love of civil and religious liberty." 1
But Lucy herself represents a finer type; she had
"imbibed the purest flame of liberty and the
purest love of republicanism. " The conclusion at
which the author is aiming is the superiority of
the religious basis of morals and manners to the
philosophical basis even at its best. A speech of
Catherine's may be taken as stating the point of
the whole novel :
Her standards and mine are different; with her,
everything is republican virtue, amongst which virtues
she reckons freedom of speech, vehemence to defend
opinions which she thinks right at all risks and before
all persons. . . . But my standard is Christianity,
which teaches forbearance on all occasions as one of the
first of duties. . . . Miss Merle has real republican
virtues. She is temperate, frugal, industrious, and self-
denying. But then these are Christian virtues also ; and
though I admire moral virtues as much as she can do,
I think them durable and precious only as they are
derived from religious belief and the consequence of it.
Without that, all morals appear built upon a sandy
foundation, and are liable to be swept away by the
flood of strong temptation. Here Lucy and I differ ;
1 Mrs. Opie's Works, vol. ii., p. 152.
212 The French Revolution
she thinks morality can stand alone, without the aid
of religion; nay, she even fancies republican firmness
sufficient to enable us to bear affliction. But if she is
ever seriously afflicted, I am sure she will find her
From all of which it is clear that Mrs. Opie insists
on judging a great movement of social idealism by
somewhat limited and personal standards. One
might even argue that her Christianity is as limited
as her Revolutionism.
The rest of the novel is perfectly commonplace.
Catherine marries an Earl, and affords an edifying
picture of an insistently religious woman in society,
which might almost be regarded as a variation
of the " Child of Nature" device for criticizing the
morals and manners of the world in general. She
quotes Scripture in season and out, revels in a
martyrdom of singularity, and lives up to the
standards of the Sunday School Library a con-
genial atmosphere in which, I am told, the works
of Mrs. Opie still survive.
Such was Mrs. Opie's Revolutionism. Her early
life was passed in an atmosphere of radicalism and
dissent. Hence she was, in a gentle feminine
fashion, a Republican. But she did not begin to
write novels until the age of Reaction had set in.
By that time whatever Revolutionary ardour she
may have had has faded to an affectionate and
respectful memory. Her real interest is in a purely
1 Mrs. Opie's Works, vol. ii., pp. 186, 187.
And the English Novel 213
personal form of religion, and the domestic virtues,
like the typical Lady Novelist she is.
SECTION 3: MRS. CHARLOTTE SMITH
Another literary lady who has left in her novels
some expression of her liberal political convictions
is Mrs. Charlotte Turner Smith (1749-1806). As
eldest daughter of a landed gentleman of Sussex,
she received an elaborate and expensive education
devoted entirely to accomplishments. At the
Kensington Seminary where she was sent for a
final polish, a schoolmate records :
She was considered romantic by her young com-
panions; she had read more than any one else in the
school, was continually composing verse, and was
thought too great a genius for study. 1
At the age of fifteen she was persuaded by her
family into a marriage which did not prove alto-
gether happy. Her young husband seems to have
been extravagant, deficient in good sense, and in
continual financial difficulties. Under the pressure
of necessity Charlotte developed decided business
ability. Her stern old father-in-law declared "she
could do more from his directions in one hour than
any of his clerks in a day. "
Besides being the business head of the house,
home-maker, and mother of twelve children, Char-
lotte added to the family income by writing. She
finally obtained a legal separation from her worth-
1 Brightwell, Literary Ladies, vol. i., p. 285.
214 The French Revolution
less husband and supported herself almost entirely
by her pen. Her published works amounted to
nearly fifty volumes.
There are certain circumstances in her life which
may have influenced her political opinions: a
residence of some years in France, made necessary
by her husband's financial difficulties, and the
marriage of one of her daughters to a French
emigre. Her connexion with the little circle of
Radicals in London probably did not extend
beyond a mere acquaintance with one or two of
The first and fullest expression of Charlotte
Smith's Revolutionary politics was her novel
Desmond (1792). The preface gives interesting
evidence as to the source of Mrs. Smith's Revolu-
As to the political passages dispersed through the
work, they are, for the most part, drawn from con-
versations to which I have been a witness, in England
and France, during the last twelve months. In carry-
ing on my story in those countries, and at a period
when their political situation (but particularly that of
the latter) is the general topic of discourse in both; I
have given to my imaginary characters the arguments
I have heard on both sides; and if those in favor of
one party have evidently the advantage, it is not
owing to my partial representation, but to the pre-
dominant power of truth and reason, which can
neither be altered nor concealed. 1
1 Desmond, vol. i., p. ii.
And the English Novel 215
The plot is simpler than is usual in novels in
letter form. Desmond, a young man of virtue
and sensibility, has a Werther-like platonic passion
for an unhappily married lady, Mrs. Geraldine
Verney. He goes to France to endeavour to forget
her, attracted thither by his interest in the Revolu-
tion. He visits a young French nobleman of repub-
lican sympathies, Count Montfleuri, and his uncle,
of intense aristocratic prejudices, Count d'Haute-
ville. His observations on the actual conditions
of the country, as contrasted with the lurid re-
ports that reach England, are detailed in his letters
to his friends.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Verney's husband has ruined
himself at cards and gone to France, leaving her
unprotected with three children to care for. Des-
mond, returning to England, manages to help her
secretly. Her husband sends for her to meet him
in France, and she dutifully obeys. She falls into
the hands of one of the wild bands of royalist
marauders. Desmond rescues her. She learns that
her husband was among these bandits, but had
been mortally wounded some time before. She and
Desmond find him and care for him. He dies,
leaving Desmond the guardian of his children.
Desmond, of course, marries his Geraldine, and his
friend Montfleuri marries her younger sister Fanny.
The letters devoted to the actual narrative would
scarcely fill more than one of the three volumes.
The rest is devoted to conversations and arguments
about the Revolution. One feels that the author
216 The French Revolution
is really giving a pretty fair representation of the
political conversations afloat in English society at
the time. It all has a very natural sound. The
young enthusiast Desmond, sure that the Re-
volution is really ushering in a new era, that all
discouraging reports from France are merely mis-
representations by parties interested in preserving
despotism; his friend Bethel, older and less san-
guine, republican in his sympathies but not so sure
of the successful outcome of the present struggle;
and the young French nobleman, Montfleuri, with
his accurate knowledge of the old regime to
balance the mistakes of the new: these represent
the radical side. Opposing them, there are all
shades of opinion: General Wallingford, irascible,
vituperative, who regards the French as the
natural enemies of England; Lord Newminster, a
young fop, who "wishes the King and Lords may
smash them all and be cursed to them"; a
Bishop who defends order, the Establishment, and
Church properties; a London merchant, who
"wishes the whole race were extirpated, and we
were in possession of their country, as in justice it is
certain we ought to be," 1 and a host of others.
There is a narrative of a (supposedly typical)
French farmer whose life is made intolerable by
the game laws and special privileges of his overlord.
Montfleuri gives an interesting analysis of the
historical causes leading up to the Revolution, and
of its philosophies, concluding:
1 Desmond, vol. i.,fp. 86.
And the English Novel 217
Montesquieu had done as much as a writer, under
a despot, dared to do, towards developing the spirit of
the laws, and the true principles of government; and,
though the multitude heeded not, or understood not
his abstract reasoning, he taught those to think, who
gradually disseminated his opinions. Voltaire at-
tacked despotism in all its holds, with the powers of
resistless wit. . . . Rousseau with matchless elo-
quence : . . . and, as these were authors who, to the
force of reason, added the charms of fancy, they
were universally read, and their sentiments were
adopted by all classes of men.
The political maxims and economical systems of
Turgot, and the application of these principles by
Mirabeau, excited a spirit of inquiry, the result of
which could not fail of being favourable to the liber-
ties of mankind; and such was the disposition of the
people of France, when the ambitious policy of our
ministry sent our soldiers into America to support the
English colonists in their resistance to the parent
Desmond has long discussions with various
opponents of Revolutionism, in which he answers
the characteristic conservative arguments. The
ultra aristocratic Count d'Hauteville advances an
argument which (the author says in a footnote)
"has been called unanswerable." "You consider
your footman on an equality with yourself, Why
then is he your footman?" Desmond answers
very concisely that abolishing an aristocracy of
birth does not necessarily mean introducing social
Desmond, vol. i., pp. 150-51.
218 The French Revolution
or economic equality. This is a crucial point in
Revolutionism. It is to be observed that Charlotte
Smith's answer is the answer of early common-
sense Revolutionism, not of later philosophic and
religious Revolutionism. Bage might have an-
swered so ; Holcroft and Shelley never.
The general conclusions of the book are some-
thing like the following: "A revolution in the
government of France was absolutely necessary;
and, that it has been accomplished at less expense
of blood, than any other event. " x English opposi-
tion to the French Revolution is due to three
principal causes: (i) The ancient hatred to
France, as England's natural enemy; (2) mis-
understandings, party prejudice, and "the apathy
of people who, at ease themselves, indolently
acquiesce in evils that do not affect them"; and
finally, (3) the vast numbers of people "whose
interest, which is what wholly decides their opin-
ions, is diametrically opposite to all reform, and of
course, to the reception of those truths which may
promote it." 2 Desmond and his friends agree in
criticizing the English government. The counts
against it are three: (i) Inequality of representa-
tion and corrupt elections; (2) penal laws, with
capital punishment for slight offences, and un-
speakable prison conditions; (3) slow, uncertain
and inefficient legal procedure, especially in the
1 Desmond, vol. ii., p. 52. This illustrates the general opinion
3 Ibid., vol. ii., p. 54.
And the English Novel 219
Courts of Equity and Chancery. But the im-
mediate establishment of a republic in England
is considered neither necessary nor desirable.
Conditions are radically different from those in
Charlotte Smith's next novel, The Old Manor
House (1793), contains no direct references to the
French Revolution, and few distinctively doc-
trinary passages. Nevertheless, it has a certain
interest for us. The first part is a satire on pride
of birth. Mrs. Rayland, an eccentric old lady of
noble family and great wealth, disowns her humble
cousin. She is induced, however, to allow his
young son Orlando to visit her, and gradually
becomes attached to the boy. The plot con-
cerns itself chiefly with the manoeuvrings of Mrs.
Rayland to keep Orlando in her power without
definitely promising to make him her heir, and
with Orlando's love for the housekeeper's gentle
niece. Orlando obtains an ensign's commission,
and is sent to the war in America. Here follow
scathing satires on governmental bad policy,
corrupt motives, and general mismanagement in
the war with the colonies. Of course, on Orlando's
return he finds that Mrs. Rayland has died and
left a will in his favour after all.
The last of Mrs. Smith's novels which has any
significance for us is The Young Philosopher,
Nature his Law and God his Guide (1798). At this
stage of events Charlotte Smith's Revolutionism
has lost some of its optimism and complacent
220 The French Revolution
belief in the efficacy of reforms. There is a new
note of bitterness in her satire of existing condi-
tions. At the same time, she is much more in-
terested in the philosophic aspect of Revolutionism
than she .was at the beginning. Evidently she
feels the need of an intellectual justification for her
liberal principles, now that practical justification
in the form of a successful republican government
in France has failed.
The preface says with some bitterness that the
author is well qualified to describe the "evils
arising from oppression, fraud, and chicanery."
She refutes a recent charge of plagiarism from
The Wrongs of Woman, 1 a work "by an author
whose talents I greatly honor and whose un-
timely death I deeply regret." 2 In closing she
disclaims any personal responsibility for the senti-
ments of her characters and declares that her only
moral is "to show the ill consequences of detrac-
tion and the sad effects of parental resentment."
The year 1798 was not so propitious as the year
1792 had been for the frank avowal of radical
The plot centres in the misfortunes of a young
man of Rousseauistic education and principles,
in a state of society where he is regarded as being,
at best, harmlessly insane. He wishes to settle
1 Probably refers to certain similarities in plot between Des-
mond and The Wrongs of Woman, by Mary Wollstonecraft. For
a summary of the latter see Chapter VII., Section 2, of this thesis.
* The Young Philosopher, vol. i., p. iii.
And the English Novel 221
down as a contented farmer but finds that the
abuses of the world fairly force themselves upon
him in his retreat, and demand that he do his best
to spread the truths which are their only remedy.
From the time he is a boy at Eton he is forced into
a Shelley-like rebellion against cruelty and oppres-
From detestation against individuals, such as
justices and overseers, he began to reflect on the laws
that put it thus in their power to drive the poor forth
to nakedness and famine. . . . And he was led to in-
quire if the complicated misery he every day saw could
be the fruits of the very best laws that could be formed
in a state of society said to be the most perfect among
what are called the civilized nations of the world. 1
He began to read the writings of the French
philosophers, "who have been supposed to have
contributed to the production of the great and
awful changes that were approaching." 2 Finally,
prejudice and persecution, together with his own
too keen perception of the miseries under the sur-
face of society, make England intolerable to the
young philosopher; he departs for the wilds of
These three novels represent distinct stages in
English Revolutionism. Desmond was written
when, in spite of decided opposition in high places,
the tide of popular opinion had not yet fully
1 The Young Philosopher, vol. i. f p. 54.
1 Ibid., vol. i., p. 60.
222 The French Revolution
turned against France. Revolutionary sympa-
thizers, of whom there were many, hoped that the
worst was passed and that the progress of reform
in England might suffer no check from the example
of a neighbouring conflict. In 1793 the Reaction
set in in full force, war was declared, and the situa-
tion looked black for Radicals of all sorts. In her
novel of this year, Charlotte Smith drops the ques-
tion of the French Revolution altogether, and
goes back to safe Whig ground. In 1798 she ven-
tures again upon the subject, with renewed fervour.
But the emphasis is changed. She has lost faith
in reform, and is now a philosophic Revolutionist.
SECTION 4: SOME OTHER LADY NOVELISTS
Elizabeth Inchbald, Amelia Opie, and Char-
lotte Smith were the most important Lady
Novelists of Revolutionary sympathies. There
remain, however, several names of less promi-
nence to be discussed; ladies who wrote only one
novel that is of interest to us, and some with a less
direct claim upon our attention.
Elinor, or The World As It Is, by Mary J. Hana-
way (1798), has a typical Revolutionary sub-title.
There are traces of the influence of Bage in the
style and in occasional references. There is an
eccentric old lady, a champion of the Rights of
Women, who is mildly satirized, but is nevertheless
quite a favourite with the author. Beyond this,
there is little trace of Revolutionism in the novel.
And the English Novel 223
In 1802 appeared a novel by Mary Hays, The
Memoirs of Emma Courtney, which was obviously
written under the influence of Godwin. The
author says in her preface that:
The most interesting and the most useful fictions
are such as delineate one strong indulged passion or
prejudice, affording material by which the philosopher
may calculate the power of the human mind. x
Caleb Williams is frequently referred to, and there
is a striking resemblance to Godwin's later novel,
Mandeville (1817). The central figure is the same :
a morbid individualist seized with a ruling passion
amounting to mania, which no reasoning can over-
come. Only, instead of a man obsessed with an
insane hatred, we have here a woman obsessed with
an insane love.
Emma Courtney becomes infatuated with a man
who cares nothing for her. In spite of her own
reason and the warnings of her friends, she grad-
ually loses all pride and dignity and writes him
hysterical letters describing the extent of her de-
votion, and her utter inability to control it. It
would appear to a casual observer that all this was
in the nature of an argument against the Pure
Reason philosophies. But a Godwinian friend gives
the author's intended moral in his admonitions to
Emma. "You have nursed in yourself a passion
which, taken in the degree in which you have
1 Memoirs of Emma Courtney, vol. i., p. i.
224 The French Revolution
experienced it, is the unnatural and odious result
of a distempered and unnatural civilization." 1
Miss Hays's method is as Godwinian as her
moral. She begins with an idea that : "The science
of mind is not less demonstrable and far more
important than the science of Newton. " J Where-
upon she proceeds to a minute introspective
analysis of a mind which, supposedly owing to the
present faulty environment, is under the influence
of passion instead of reason. The result is the
usual one in psychological novels; instead of any
real insight into the normal mind, she merely gives
us an unpleasant study of the abnormal without
apparently realizing the pathological nature of her
Miss Hays leaves us in no doubt as to the sources
of her philosophy. Godwin, Holcroft, Paine, Woll-
stonecraft, Rousseau, and Holbach are quoted
frequently. She is a necessitarian, a perfectibilian,
a "Pure Reasoner, " and, above all, an indi-
Individual happiness [she says], constitutes the
general good. All systems of morals founded on any
other principle involve themselves in contradictions
and must be erroneous. 2 Man does right when pur-
suing interest and pleasure; it argues no depravity
this is the fable of superstition; he ought only to be
1 Memoirs of Emma Courtney, vol. i., p. 2.
, a It was the Godwinian fallacy to make the self -consistency of
any system the test of its truth.
And the English Novel 225
careful that in seeking his own good he does not
render it incompatible with the good of others. 1
In the following year was published What Has
Been (1803), by a Mrs. Mathews, who was evi-
dently as much influenced by Holcroft as Miss
Hays had been by Godwin ; and a great deal more
wholesome influence it appears to have been.
She quotes Holcroft frequently ; one of her charac-
ters, a benevolent old lady, is actually named
Mrs. Ann St. Ives. 2 Emily, the heroine, thrown
upon her own resources, has at first too much
pride to become a governess : " Her reason was not
yet sufficiently matured to correct this error." 3
But in the end she marries a young Revolu-
tionist without income or prospects, learning
contentment in poverty through a truer scale
of values. The moral with which the novel con-
cludes is that : " Civilization has introduced luxury,
from which originate an innumerable throng of
vices which spread their destructive influence to
the lowest ranks of society. " 4
One of the devoted friends of Mary Wollstone-
craft, who was with her at the time of her death,
was Mrs. Eliza Fenwick. Her best-known novel,
Secrecy, s is not in its main outlines Revolutionary.
1 Memoirs of Emma Courtney, vol. ii., p. 35.
3 This is, however, not intended to be the same person as
Holcroft's Anna St. Ives. (Cf. Chapter III., of this thesis.)
s What Has Been, vol. i., p. 24.
Ibid., vol. i., p. 304.
s Not dated. Probably not earlier than 1792 or later than 1796.
226 The French Revolution
But it frequently attacks the evils of unquestion-
ing obedience to any authority whose only sanc-
tion is custom.
The perpetual hue and cry after obedience has
almost driven virtue out of the world [says Mrs.
Fenwick] , for be it unlimited obedience to a sovereign ,
to a parent, or a husband the mind yielding itself so,
loses its individual dignity. 1
Another Lady Novelist who was an enthusiastic
Revolutionist was Miss Ann Plumptre (1760-
1818). One of her contemporaries says of her:
She was well known as a democrat and an ex-
travagant worshipper of Napoleon. In 1810 she de-
clared she would welcome him if he invaded England,
because he would do away with aristocracy and give
the country a better government. 2
But strange to say, her novels show almost no
traces of her political opinions. Possibly this may
be accounted for by the fact that Miss Plumptre
did not begin to write until popular prejudice
against Radicals was at its height, and she may
not have cared to antagonize her public. 3
One Lady Novelist of a slightly later period who
1 Secrecy, vol. i., p. 237. This novel is dedicated to "A personal
friend, Eliza B." Could this be Eliza Bishop, Mary Wollstone-
2 Crabbe Robinson, Diary, vol. i., p. 156.
J Her first novel, The Rector's Son, was published in 1798, her
other three in 1801, 1812, and 1818.
And the English Novel 227
certainly deserves to be mentioned here from her
connexions, if not for her own work, is Mary
Shelley, daughter of Mary Wollstonecraft and
Godwin, and wife of the poet Shelley. Mary
Shelley was the author of several novels which
show traces of the influences by which she was
surrounded ; but their connexion with Revolution-
ism is so indirect as scarcely to warrant us in
The latest, perhaps, of the Lady Novelists whose
connexion with the Revolution is distinctly
traceable was that spoiled child of the age of Re-
action, Lady Caroline Ponsonby Lamb, Viscoun-
tess of Melbourne (1785-1828). The records of
her contemporaries show her to us as a woman of
delicate and appealing beauty, and rare charm
of manner. But it is also apparent that she was
a bundle of nerves and absolutely undisciplined
temper, with an insatiable craving for excitement
of every sort. She was apparently happily married
to a man who came as near to managing her
successfully as any one could, when Lord Byron
first appeared in London society and became the
craze of the hour. Lady Caroline was fascinated
by him. In 1 8 1 6, when their affair came to an end,
she rushed into print with her account of it, thinly
disguised as a novel. The title role in Glenarvon
is a travesty of Lord Byron; the heroine is the
writer herself, under the name Lady Calantha.
Byron's friends were exasperated. Byron himself
coolly remarked that if the lady had told the truth
228 The French Revolution
it would really have made a better story. A re-
cent description of a certain type of modern novel
fits Glenarvon admirably; it is "neurotic, erotic,
and tommy-rotic. " A more incoherent mass of
Rousseauism, Revolutionism, and sheer nonsense
it would be hard to find. Lady Caroline's literary
style is a part of all that she has met. Romantic
titanism, Ossianic interludes with wild Irish
priestesses, and a truly Godwinian treatment of
the ruling passion idea are mingled in nightmarish
confusion with society wit in the Restoration
manner and incongruous bits of typical Lady-
Novelist didacticism. The plot is hopelessly
incoherent, but one gathers that Glenarvon was
a desperately, alluringly wicked serpent, and the
lady an innocent little bird whom he had fasci-
nated. In the end, Calantha is deserted by Glenar-
von, cast off by her husband, dies penitent, and
returns to haunt Glenarvon in the most approved
manner. In real life, one regrets to say, the lady
did nothing so sensible as to take her useless self
out of the world at an early age. Her husband did
actually institute divorce proceedings against her
at one time, but it was principally on account of
her intolerable temper.
It would be interesting to know how many other
portraits appear in Glenarvon. One of the charac-
ters, for instance, is a certain Irish seeress, Elinor
St. Clare, who calls herself Saint Clara. In her
brunette beauty one may, perhaps, trace a resem-
blance to Jane Clairmont, who called herself Clare.
And the English Novel 229
Jane Clairmont was the stepdaughter of Godwin,
and must have been well known to Lady Caroline.
Her affair with Byron was not unlike that of Saint
Clara with Glenarvon.
With all its absurdities, one person at least
seems to have taken Glenarvon seriously enough to
consider it a menace to public morals. In the
following year appeared Purity of Heart, or Woman
As She Should Be. Addressed to the Author of
Glenarvon by an Old Wife of Twenty Years. The
preface inveighs against the "horrible tendency of
the dangerous and perverting sophistry of this
work." The novel is occupied mainly with the
ravings of "Lady Calantha Limb" about her
De Lyra of the "rattlesnake eyes," and her inten-
tion to publish a book in which she will "sacrifice
decency to revenge." 1 By way of contrast there
is a virtuous matron of the Griselda type whose
adventures give the novel its slight semblance of
plot. One cannot help feeling that ' ' An Old Wife "
was rather wasting her time in parodying a book
which effectively parodies itself.
Lady Caroline Lamb wrote two other novels.
Graham Hamilton (1822) is in striking contrast to
her earlier attempt. This is an entirely common-
place moral tale. There are echoes of Rousseau
and Godwin, and the humanitarian and "victim
of society" motifs appear frequently; but there
is little in the novel for which the most orthodox
of Lady Novelists need apologize. Its purpose,
1 Purity of Heart, vol. i., p. 125.
230 The English Novel
apparently, is to point out the suffering among
tradespeople caused by society women who live
beyond their incomes and refuse to pay their
Her last novel, Ada Reis (1823), is, if not Revolu-
tionary, at least distinctly Byronic in the type of
imagination displayed. Ada Reis is an Oriental
pirate who aspires to be a king. He enters into
treaty with a Spirit of Evil who haunts him in the
guise of a mysterious stranger. Ada Reis's daugh-
ter, Fiormonda, is loved by a Spirit of Good, the
brother of the Evil One. These represent rival
forces in the universe, in a manner very suggestive
of the Manichean theology of Cain. Fiormonda
forgets her first love and turns to the Evil Spirit.
After death, Fiormonda and Ada Reis reign, proud
and unhappy, in a vague Kingdom of Darkness.
Lady Caroline Lamb's relation to Revolution-
ism and to the titanism of the age of Reaction is
that of a child who repeats incoherently half-
understood phrases. She was an admirer of God-
win, and corresponded with him for some time. 1
But it xj quite evident that her knowledge of
Revolutionism was very superficial, and her use of
its catchwords was little more than a fad.
1 Several of her letters to Godwin are preserved in Paul's
William Godwin, His Friends and Contemporaries.
THE FRENCH REVOLUTION AND THE
RIGHTS OF WOMAN
SECTION I: INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
AMONG the novels which we are considering
there are a number which concern them-
selves with various aspects of what our grand-
mothers called "the Rights of Woman." These
deal with a special aspect of eighteenth-century
radicalism. Their significance can hardly be
made clear without some preliminary discussion
of the earlier literature of the subject by way of
There is a popular tendency to date the entire
modern feminist movement from the period of the
French Revolution. Mary Wollstonec aft has
frequently been referred to as the "first champion
of the Rights of Women." This is a half-truth,
not to be accepted without explanation and
comment. There was a steadily increasing litera-
ture dealing with every aspect of the woman
question for centuries before the time of Mary
Dr. Alexander tells us that " Boccaccio was the
232 The French Revolution
first who started the idea of writing anything
better than a song or a sonnet to woman. " r But
it was in the sixteenth century in England that
discussions of the equality of the sexes began in
good earnest. This was precisely the kind of
subject to appeal to that discussion-loving age;
offering infinite scope for the display of intellec-
tual adroitness with no danger of reaching any
conclusion. It combined the gallantry of the
mediaeval courts of love with the semi-theological
hair-splitting of the schoolmen as to whether
women were or were not to be considered human
beings. However extreme the position on either
side, these pleasant polemics were never intended
to be taken seriously. They indicate no social
maladjustment, hardly even individual discontent ;
and with the possible exception of the grim
diatribes of John Knox, aim at no practical
English feminist literature of the sixteenth
and seventeenth centuries falls into three general
classifications: (i) panegyrics of woman in the
abstract, and lives of distinguished women; (2)
discussions of the relative merits of the sexes,
and defences of women's logical right to enter
various professions; and (3) rules of conduct for
At the close of the seventeenth century comes a
Serious Proposal to Ladies, by the gentle and
1 Alexander, History of Women, quoted in Westminster Review,
vol. clviii., p; 312.
And the English Novel 233
scholarly Mary Astell. J She feels a real inade-
quacy in the educational opportunities open to
women. Her "Proposal" is for the establishment
of a studious retreat, something between a nun-
nery and a seminary; a plan which was actually
tried during the following century.
The year 1739 is an important one in the history
of feminist literature. It is marked by a number
of articles appearing almost simultaneously in
various periodicals. The first is a very significant
article in the Craftsman's Magazine pointing out
the waste involved in keeping single women of the
middle class untrained and unemployed. The
writer advocates " making women as useful and
capable of maintaining themselves as men, and
preventing them from becoming old maids. "
This economic feminism in the Craftsman's
Magazine finds its idealistic counterpart in the
Gentleman's Magazine for July of the same year,
in a little essay praising women of civic virtue,
"who preferred public safety to private conquest. "
An unidentified sentimentalist, writing in a
periodical called Common Sense on "The Province
of Women," denies them everything but "love." 2
This called forth a spirited little volume entitled
Woman Not Inferior to Man (etc.). The writer,
1 The authorship of the Serious Proposal to Ladies has been
called in question in a recent publication of the Modern Language
Association. Until the point is settled, however, I think we may
continue to assume that Mary Astell is the author.
3 Westminster Review, vol. cl., p. 536.
234 The French Revolution
who signs herself "Sophia, a Gentlewoman," has
been not inaptly called "the first of the militants."
Her somewhat irritating assertiveness was not
allowed to pass unchallenged. "A Gentleman"
answers promptly, in a book with the equally
uncompromising title: Man Superior to Woman:
or A Vindication of Man's Natural Right of Au-
thority Over the Woman. The nature of his reply
makes his nom de plume seem a touch of irony ; he
disdains even the obvious arguments, and resorts
to ribald vituperation. "Sophia" retorts at once,
in a treatise, Woman's Superior Excellence Over
Man: A Reply to the Author of a Late Treatise
In Which the Excessive Weakness of that Gentle-
man's A nswer is Exposed. ' ' Sophia, ' ' one feels has
rather lost her temper, but it must be admitted that
she "exposes" her opponent with entire success.
Several attempts have been made to identify
the participants in this interesting little literary
skirmish. A suggestion has even been hazarded,
plausible but without foundation, that this is an
anonymous continuation of hostilities between
Pope and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu.
In the same year, the Gentleman's Magazine
contains a correspondence on the abstract right
of women to be represented in any professedly
representative government. It was at about this
time also that an episode occurred which Lady
Mary Wortley Montagu records in her Letters. An
attempt was made to exclude ladies from hearing
the debates in the House of Lords. Rather than
And the English Novel 235
lose this privilege, the ladies resorted to methods
rather suggestive of the twentieth century. For
seven hours, "they stood at the door without bite
or sup, and carried their point."
Within these two years (1739 and 1740), we
find in embryo most of the elements of subsequent
feminist literature: dreary wastes of fanaticism
versus prejudice, absurd sentimentalism and
equally absurd appeals to abstract rights, but
withal, two elements of permanent value: a per-
ception of the economic factor, and a sound ideal of
the social duties and responsibilities of women.
During the next fifty years the only significant
additions to feminist literature were a number of
sentimental theories on the education of girls, all
more or less directly influenced by Rousseau's
Emile. Mary Wollstonecraft discusses the most
noteworthy of these; Dr. Gregory's Legacy to His
Daughters, Fordyce's Sermons, and Hester Cha-
It should be observed that between the femin-
ism of Rousseau and that of Mary Wollstonecraft
there is no connexion whatever. They hold
exactly opposite views of the chief end of woman.
"Sophie" exists purely for "Emile." Rousseau
cannot conceive of her as being of any value to
herself or to society as a whole. Her one aim in
life is to be attractive ; her one happiness is in being
loved. She reflects, "that a thinking man may
not yawn in her society." Instead of an education, x
1 Rousseau, Emile, Book V.
236 The French Revolution
she has "accomplishments." Her very modesty
exists only to give zest to the wooing of her. It is
against this conception that Mary Wollstonecraft
protests. The basis of all her writings is the
assumption that women are before all else human
beings, with all human dignity and responsibilities.
Her ideal is one of self-respect and service to
society, whether that service be the writing of
books or the rearing of future citizens. To the
objection that seems to Rousseau conclusive:
"Educate women like men, and the more they
resemble our sex the less power will they have over
us," she replies finely: "This is the very point I
aim at; I do not wish them to have power over
men, but over themselves. " I
Unquestionably the outbreak of the French
Revolution marks a distinct epoch in the feminist
movement. "Since when have women occupied
themselves with politics?" Napoleon is said to
have asked Madame de Stael. "Since they have
been guillotined," was the reply. Perhaps the
first serious demand ever made by women for
political representation and equal suffrage was the
Cahier presented to the king at the meeting of the
States General in 1789. A similar petition was
addressed to the National Assembly in the same
year, and endorsed by the philosopher Condorcet.
It was rejected, "with scorn and derision." But
many of the leaders of the Revolution were in
favour of it, among them Talleyrand-Perigord,
M Vindication of the Rights of Woman, ed. Boston, 1792, p. 112.
And the English Novel 237
Bishop of Autun, to whom A Vindication of the
Rights of Woman is dedicated.
Miss Mcllquham says : "Three valuable pleas for
justice to womanhood were undoubtedly the out-
come of the French Revolution, viz., Condorcet's
Sur V Admission des Femmes au Droit de Cite, Mary
Wollstonecraft's Vindication of the Rights of
Woman, and Count Segur's Women, Their Condi-
tion and Influence in Society." 1 It is not quite
accurate, however, to call A Vindication of the
Rights of Woman an outcome of the French Revolu-
tion, in spite of the stimulus it unquestionably
received from that source. During the latter half
of the eighteenth century there were other forces
at work in England, forces dimly foreshadowed by
that unknown writer in the Craftsman's Magazine.
Not least of the social maladjustments arising from
the Industrial Revolution were those affecting
women. As factories developed, the home became
less and less a centre of industry. The spinning
and weaving of cloth, for example, lacemaking,
and all manner of handicrafts were no longer
carried on in each individual family for use or sale.
The woman in the home found her range of occu-
pation rapidly diminished. Below a certain social
scale she followed her work into the factories. But
the self-supporting middle-class woman found her-
self facing an economic situation that was fast
becoming intolerable. Without a "fortune" she
could not marry advantageously; the superfluous
1 Westminster Review, vol. clx., p. 541.
238 The French Revolution
daughter or sister in the home was no longer a val-
uable asset ; and outside the home the wretchedly
paid and almost menial occupations of governess,
"companion," and seamstress were the only ones
open to her. It is the consequent somewhat vague
and uncomprehending social unrest that finds ex-
pression in Mary Wollstonecraft, rather than a
desire for political rights. She was undoubtedly
much influenced, as we shall see, by Godwin and his
circle. But leaving aside the extraneous matter
borrowed from the Pure Reason philosophies, A
Vindication of the Rights of Woman reduces itself
to a clear-headed and surprisingly modern demand
for a truer ideal, a sound education, and the right
Is not that government very defective [she writes],
and very unmindful of the happiness of its members,
that does not provide for honest independent women
by encouraging them to fill respectable stations ? How
many women waste life away, the prey of discontent,
who might have practised as physicians, regulated a
farm, managed a shop, and stood erect, supported by
their own industry! 1
Perhaps no other single book cut so deep into
the mind of the time as this. Everywhere it was
hailed as the beginning of a new movement and
greeted with a storm of protest. On its publica-
tion, criticism was divided. The Analytical Review
endorsed it unhesitatingly. The Critical Review
writes in a tone of patronizing disapproval :
1 Wollstonecraft, Vindication of the Rights of Woman, chapter i.
And the English Novel 239
We are infinitely better pleased with the present
system. In truth, dear young lady, endeavour to
attain the elegancy of mind, and sweet docility of
manners, the ornaments of your sex; we are certain
you will be more pleasing, and we dare pronounce that
you will be infinitely happier.
Other commentators are less courteous : instead of
discussing the book they resort to irrelevant and
often scurrilous attacks upon the character of the
For at least a quarter of a century after its publi-
cation, all the ideas of the woman movement were
practically identified with the Vindication. It
was one of those inevitable books that crystallize
a tendency in their time. Mary Wollstonecraft
became the symbol of a certain form of unrest.
The general trend of discussion we shall find fully
illustrated in the novels which we are about to
With this brief sketch of early feminist literature
as a background we may turn to our subject proper,
Mary Wollstonecraft as a novelist, and some
other novels of the Revolutionary period dealing
with the position of women.
SECTION 2: MARY WOLLSTONECRAFT
It can hardly have failed to occur to us how few
of the novelists we have considered so far are
living figures in the world of literature. A few
volumes gathering dust on the shelves of libraries
240 The French Revolution
and special collections, occasional perfunctory
notices in histories of the novel ; these are all that
remain of the little group who echoed in the fiction
of their time the splendid audacities that so in-
spired the poets of the Revolution.
But there is one figure in the group about whom
controversy has never ceased to rage. Through-
out the century that has elapsed since her death,
Mary Wollstonecraft has been honoured and
bitterly attacked, but never treated with in-
difference ; loved and hated, but never forgotten.
The spirit of controversy is as strong in her
twentieth-century commentators as it was in her
We are concerned here primarily with the novels,
which formed a very insignificant part of her work.
Two were early attempts; the most important,
The Wrongs of Woman, was left unfinished at her
death. As novels, her critics agree, none of the
three are very valuable. If it be objected that
these form but a very small excuse for a somewhat
lengthy discussion of the author, we can only plead
that in order to arrive at any just estimate of The
Wrongs of Woman we must know something of the
"Rights of Woman" movement, and, most of all,
something of the rights and wrongs of the woman
of whose life and personality these novels are so
largely a record. It is to Mary Wollstonecraft
herself that we must turn for the explanation of her
works. She knew life at first hand, thought for
herself with vigour and directness, and managed
And the English Novel 241
somehow to see so far below the surface of her time
that the conclusions she reached have not yet
Biographical details are usually rather dull
reading; but how, in every record that she touches,
Mary Wollstonecraft lives! Our own contem-
poraries are not more real to us than this woman of
a hundred years ago. One has an odd feeling of
having known and talked with her somewhere
the girl of Opie's portraits, with her sweet, wistful
face under the soft waves of dark auburn hair,
the expressive brown eyes that Southey praised
so, the sensitive, almost childlike mouth.
The first eighteen years of her life were passed
in an atmosphere of poverty and family squabbles
in which she usually acted as buffer. Her father,
a combination of brute and sentimentalist, aroused
his daughter's fierce contempt. One gets strange
glimpses of the child interfering to protect her
mother and the four younger children from actual
cruelty. This intolerable family life Mary left to
become a paid companion to a widow of uncertain
temper, but after a few months was called home by
her mother's illness. After the death of her mother
Mary left home definitely, and went to live with
her friend Fanny Blood, a girl whose home was
almost the duplicate of Mary's own. Mrs. Blood
joined them, and for two years the three women
eked out a precarious living by needlework. Mean-
while Mary's younger sister Eliza had married a
Mr. Bishop, fancying that matrimony offered a
242 The French Revolution
better means of escape from an intolerable home
than Mary's plan of self-support. It did not. By
1783 the Bishops had reached a domestic crisis,
and the task of rescuing her sister fell upon Mary.
She persuaded Fanny Blood to join her in starting
a school at Islington, where her sister might find
a refuge; in January, 1784, Eliza was smuggled
away from her husband's house, half -insane, "bit-
ing her wedding ring to pieces in the coach."
Mary wrote to her sister Everina: "I hope B. will
not discover us ; for I could sooner face a lion. . . .
Bess is determined not to return. Can he force
her?" He could, legally, as she very well knew;
but fortunately he did not. Meanwhile Mary
felt the full force of popular opinion, and writes
I knew I should be the shameful incendiary in the
shocking affair of a woman's leaving her bedfellow.
They thought the strong affection of a sister might
apologize for my conduct, but that the scheme was
by no means a good one. In short, quite contrary to
all the rules of conduct that are published for new-
married ladies, by whose advice Mrs. Brook was
actuated when she with great grief of heart gave up
my friendship. 1
The school struggled along for several years on
the verge of failure. Fanny Blood married, and
died soon after. Eliza and Everina Wollstonecraft
took positions as governesses. Mary continued to
1 Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 50.
And the English Novel 243
make a bare living with the pupils that remained,
by doing all the work of the cottage herself. She
decided to try her hand at writing. In 1785 her
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters was pub-
lished by Joseph Johnson. It is characterized by
her usual good sense and independence of thought,
and contains many of the very modern ideas which
she afterward expressed more fully in the Vindica-
tion of the Rights of Woman. Johnson paid her
ten pounds for it, which she promptly handed over
to the Bloods, who certainly did not need it any
more than she did.
In 1787, Mary gave up the hopeless task of trying
to run a school with neither capital nor patronage,
and took a position as governess to Lady Kings-
borough. Here she had her first taste of aris-
tocratic and fashionable life. Her reaction is
vigorous and characteristic. "There is such a
solemn kind of stupidity about this place as froze
my very soul," she wrote to her sister. After a
year as a governess she could endure it no longer,
and came to London, boldly determined to sup-
port herself by her pen. Her letters at this time
show the courage of desperation. "I am, then,
to be the first of a new genius. I tremble at the
attempt. But I must be independent. "
For the next four years Mary Wollstonecraft
lived in London, a shabby, overworked young hack-
writer. She was successful from the first, but she
had an incurable habit of giving away almost all
she earned. During this time she kept in school
244 The French Revolution
three of her brothers and sisters, sent Eliza to
France to learn the language, and virtually sup-
ported her father in addition. Mary's family were
all stupid, disagreeable people, not in the least
worth the trouble she took with them; her sisters
afterward showed themselves thoroughly spiteful
and ungrateful. But Mary never expected sym-
pathy or appreciation from those she helped.
She took care of them as a matter of course, be-
cause it was plain that they would not take care
During these years however, there was another
side to Mary Wollstonecraft's life. Through her
friendship with Joseph Johnson, the publisher of
most of the radical literature of the time, she came
in touch with a group of men and women of in-
tellect and originality who were thinking in terms
of the French Revolutionary philosophies. John-
son treated her like a daughter; Paine, Home
Tooke, Fordyce, Godwin, Fuseli, Holcroft, and
all their brilliant circle welcomed her as an equal.
In that congenial fellowship her powers of intellect
and personality reached their full development.
She was a woman whom men of genius always
admired. Dr. Price had long been her devoted
friend, and as a young girl she had even succeeded
in attracting the attention of the great Dr. John-
son. It is obvious that her ideas were profoundly
influenced by the extreme Revolutionary doctrines
of the group in which she now found herself.
Rather, it is needful to point out wherein she
And the English Novel 245
differed from them; and how it is that in some
respects this obscure girl teacher saw her time with
clearer eyes than any of its professional philo-
In 1790, Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in
France appeared, attacking Dr. Price's sermon
before the Revolution Society. Mary Wollstone-
craft was the first in the field with an answer. A
Vindication of the Rights of Man, in a Letter to the
Right Honourable Edmund Burke is as clever a bit of
rough and ready argument as any in the language.
Its defects in style and structure are numerous;
it was written over night, almost, and Mary
never could be induced to take any interest in
questions of mere literary craftsmanship. But it
has a more serious fault. It is not fair to the great
statesman against whom it is directed. Humility
was never Mary's strong point. The tone which
she adopts towards her distinguished opponent is
almost insolent in its audacity. Burke had un-
deniably scored against the Revolutionists when he
insisted that political systems are of slow growth,
built on practical needs and expediencies, not on
abstract reasonings. But Mary Wollstonecraft
meeting Burke on his own ground of practical
consideration of facts, convicts him in turn of
building air castles, and saying "all is well" where
all is far from well. She brushes aside all his
rhapsodies on the sacredness of the past and the
glories of England, and goes straight to the heart
of his whole concern for the maintenance of the
246 The French Revolution
established order. "Security of property! Behold
in a few words the definition of English liberty.
But softly,' it is only the property of the rich that
is secure. " She sees perfectly clearly the economic
basis for the conservatism of the property holders ;
but, belonging herself to the earning rather than to
the owning classes, she does not feel quite so
forcibly as Burke the extreme sanctity of capital.
Furthermore, his eloquent tears over the sufferings
of the Queen of France were a little too much for
the patience of the woman who knew by experi-
ence how much chivalry his world had for women
on the wrong side of the economic situation. If
there was one thing Mary hated it was sentimental
cant. She meets Burke's condemnation of the
French Revolution on the basis of its early acts by
pointing out conditions existing under that British
government Burke so admired; closing with a
burst of indignation more forcible than courteous.
"What were the outrages of a day to these con-
tinual miseries? Such misery demands more than
tears. I pause to recollect myself and smother the
contempt I feel for your rhetorical flourishes and
infantine sensibility." 1
Two years later came the publication of Mary
Wollstonecraft's best-known book, A Vindication
of the Rights of Woman, the significance of which
we have discussed elsewhere. This may to some
1 Wollstonecraft, Rights of Man, ed., London, 1790, pp. 23 and
And the English Novel 247
extent be taken as the text of which her semi-
autobiographical novels are the illustration.
The last four years of Mary Wollstonecraft's
life show another side of her very complex charac-
ter. She was a woman who could not only think
clearly and act resolutely, but feel greatly. There
are many unprofitable ways of considering the
love affairs of Mary Wollstonecraft ; her well-
meaning commentators have done their best to
furnish us with examples of all of them. It is a
subject fatally easy to preach about or sentimen-
talize over. One fancies how intensely annoyed
Mary herself would be with either attitude. It
may be well to point out that society settled its
score with her something over a hundred years ago.
There was little enough of happiness in her short
life. One would think the most incurably ethical
might be satisfied with the moral to be drawn from
her conduct and its consequences to herself.
Briefly, in 1792 or thereabouts, Mary Wollstone-
craft, having forgotten her own very wise remarks
on the dangers of platonic friendships, found herself
too much interested in the painter Fuseli for either
her own peace of mind or that of his wife. Where-
upon she very sensibly ran away to France. There
she witnessed some stirring scenes in the great
drama of the time, and wrote her conclusions upon
them in A Historical and Moral View of the French
Revolution. It is to be observed that Mary's
emotional crises never affected her remarkable
insight into the economic causes underlying politi-
248 The French Revolution
cal phenomena. She was perhaps the only one of
the English Radicals who was never misled as to the
real significance of the French Revolution.
I wish I could inform you [she wrote], that out of the
chaos of vices and follies, prejudices and virtues,
rudely jumbled together, I saw the fair form of liberty
slowly rising and virtue expanding her wings to shelter
all her children. . . . But if the aristocracy of birth
is levelled to the ground only to make room for that of
riches, I am afraid the moral of the people will not
be much improved by the change. . . . Everything
whispers to me that names, not principles, are changed. I
While in Paris, Mary met Captain Gilbert Im-
lay, an American, with whom she formed the
connexion that has caused such acute embarrass-
ment to her apologists. It has been pointed out
that conditions in Paris were such as to make a
formal marriage with its accompanying declara-
tion of nationality extremely dangerous. Mary
was certainly registered at the American Embassy
as Imlay's wife, and acknowledged as such by him
in documents which would be accepted in many
countries as conclusive evidence of marriage. But
later, when Imlay's fickle conduct forced Mary
most unwillingly to give him up, society was
shocked to discover that there was no legal con-
straint to prevent their separation.
Imlay was himself the author of a tendenz novel,
The Emigrants, attacking "The sacrilege which
1 Wollstonecraft, Posthumous Works, vol. iv., p. 43.
And the English Novel 249
the present practices of matrimonial engagement
necessarily produce." J. Stirling Taylor says of
It would be interesting to know which we do not
whether these heterodox views came from Mary, or
whether it was the other way round and Imlay the
teacher. Since the book was almost certainly finished
in Paris, either theory may be true ; the influences may
have been mutual. J
In the Pure Reason philosophies of Godwin and
his circle, marriage was often referred to as a form
of tyranny. But Mary was not of the type of
mind that seeks martyrdom for metaphysical
abstractions. She usually drew her own conclu-
sions from actual observation. When one remem-
bers the homes Mary had known best her own
and the Bloods' and her experiences in rescuing
her sister from the old English marriage law which
regarded the wife as "property," it is not incom-
prehensible that Mary developed a certain lack of
appreciation of the desirability of having her own
marriage legally binding.
However that may be, she received drastic
demonstration of the extreme unwisdom of her
course. The Imlay letters, published after her
death, are a pathetic record of her brief happiness,
Imlay's unfaithfulness, her desperate efforts to
regain his affection, growing estrangement, and the
final parting : " I go to find peace. May you never
1 Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 137.
250 The French Revolution
know by experience what you have made me
She returned to London. That haunting ten-
dency to melancholia, the result of nerves shattered
in her early struggles, overwhelmed her ; and for the
second time in her life Mary Wollstonecraft at-
tempted suicide. She was rescued from the
Thames, however, and took up her work again,
gradually regaining her lost peace of mind through
the necessity of caring for herself and her child,
Fanny Imlay. Mary cared little for social position
or for wealth; the two things she could not live
without were her own self-respect and her econo-
mic independence. There is a flash of the old
spirit when Imlay offers to support her and his
I never wanted but your heart that gone, you have
nothing more to give. Forgive me then if I say that I
shall consider any direct or indirect attempt to supply
my necessities as an insult which I have not merited,
and as done rather out of tenderness for your own
reputation than for me.
But Mary Wollstonecraft was too fully de-
veloped a human being to brood long over the
sentimentalized memory of an emotional experi-
ence, however intense it had been. Her friendship
with William Godwin ripened gradually into love,
and those two strangely contrasted temperaments
found happiness together in a married life the
eccentricity of which was equalled only by its
And the English Novel 251
beauty. Godwin says of Mary: "She was a
worshipper of domestic life, and possessed in an
unparalleled degree the art of communicating
happiness." It seemed that she had at last
"found peace." She was still a young woman
thirty-seven, to be exact, and the best of her life
was yet before her. But within the year she died
in giving birth to the daughter who bore her name
Shelley's Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin.
So ends the life of which the novels we are about
to consider are little more than faint, distorted
reflections. She, who saw so clearly, has left us a
summing up of herself in one sentence, the full
force of which it has taken us a century to realize :
All the world is a stage, thought I, and few there are
in it who do not play the part they have learned by
rote; and those who do not, seem marks set up to be
pelted at by fortune; or rather sign posts, which point
out the road to others, whilst forced to stand still
themselves amidst the mud and dust.
The fiction Mary Wollstonecraft wrote is not
large in amount; two frankly tendenz novels, a
fantastic tale called The Cave of Fancy, and a book
of children's stories, moral lessons connected by
a very slight thread of narrative, with which
we need not concern ourselves in the present
The first of her novels was written during her
life as a governess, in 1782. Mary, A Fiction is not
remarkable as a literary achievement, although
252 The French Revolution
there are fine passages in it, and some spirited
satire. The preface is interesting as an expression
of the author's ideals of novel writing. She prac-
tically admits the strong personal, almost auto-
biographical element in her work.
Those compositions only [she writes], have power
to delight and carry us willing captives where the
soul of the author is exhibited. . . . These chosen few
wish to speak for themselves and not be an echo
even of the sweetest sounds. The paradise they
ramble in must be of their own creating.
She adds a demure footnote: "I here give the
reviewers an opportunity of being very witty about
the Paradise of Fools. " '
G. R. Stirling Taylor says of this novel:
There is little doubt that Mary is autobiographical.
That she should make the sick friend die in Lisbon
is an obvious reference to the death of Fanny Blood.
But these resemblances are of trivial importance.
The chief interest lies in the fact that the " Mary" of
the tale speaks the mind of Mary the author. This
close link between the story and the author's individu-
ality is marked by a mass of cumulative evidence;
the life explains the story and the story the life. The
author says of her heroine, "Her mind was strong and
clear, when not clouded by her feelings, but she was too
much the creature of impulse and the slave of pity. " 2
The Cave of Fancy, A Tale, was planned at the
1 Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary, preface, p. ii.
2 Taylor, Mary Wollstonecraft, p. 88.
And the English Novel 253
same time as Mary, A Fiction, but it was never
finished, appearing only among her posthumous
works. It is far inferior to the two novels based
upon Mary's own life, which in spite of all their
faults in literary craftsmanship are not without
power. The facts of her experience and the
conclusions she drew from them she could express
with vigour and directness. But when she relies
upon her imagination for plot and incident her
weakness becomes apparent. Short as The Cave
of Fancy is, the action drags and the didacticism
Even so, it is not without interest. Mary Woll-
stonecraft never could keep her own personality
out of anything she wrote; and she herself has been
called everything from an "angel" to "a hyena in
petticoats" (Horace Walpole's little tribute), but
never a bore.
The plan, never completed, was of the Arabian
Nights type ; a narrative framework for a group of
stories. In an enchanted cavern dwells a very
implausible sage named Sagestus. A shipwreck at
his doors devolves upon him the responsibility of
caring for and educating a little girl, the sole survi-
vor. The inference is that the child is very fortu-
nate in the prospect of an education so directed,
for her mother was of the type of woman Mary
Wollstonecraft particularly disliked: "Not having
courage to form an opinion of her own, she adhered
with blind partiality to those she adopted." 1
1 Mary Wollstonecraft, Posthumous Works, vol. iv., p. 123.
254 The French Revolution
Sagestus conducts the education of the child by
the aid of spirits summoned to the cave, who tell
her the stories of their past lives. Only one of these
stories was written ; that of a woman in whose ex-
periences one traces the inevitable resemblance
to those of the author.
The last and unquestionably the best of Mary
Wollstonecraft's novels exists only in the rough
draft left unfinished at her death. It is for our
purpose the most interesting on account of its
It is hardly fair to criticize the technique of an
unfinished work. Certainly in its present form the
whole seems badly constructed. The story begins
in the middle, in an insane asylum, leaves us for
several chapters in utter bewilderment, and then
resorts to the expedient of the heroine's diary to
explain the events of what should have been the
first two volumes. Horrors are piled on with
Gothic lavishness, and there is a nightmarish in-
coherence due to continual digressions.
Nevertheless, it is safe to say that Mary Woll-
stonecraft had grasped certain principles of ten-
denz novel writing more fully than any of the other
novelists we have considered so far. With most of
them the "purpose" appears to be incidental.
The method is to construct a plot at random, and
then allow the characters to indulge in an occa-
sional political or philosophical discussion. The
story would go on just as well with the doctrinary
passages omitted. Sometimes a preface announces
And the English Novel 255
the purpose ; and one feels that such guidance is not
superfluous. In Caleb Williams, for instance, the
subject announced is "Man the enemy of man."
But]since there is considerable disagreement among
commentators as to how the novel illustrates the
moral, and even as to what the moral is, it is clear
that Godwin has not made his point very forcibly.
Mary Wollstonecraft, on the contrary, having
decided to make society aware by means of a novel,
of its injustice to women, goes about it with her
characteristic directness. The wrongs she has in
mind are no mere violations of abstract principles
of political justice. She confines herself to such
social maladjustments as have come under her
personal observation. She takes Maria any
woman places her in a perfectly possible situa-
tion, and brings down upon her a series of calami-
ties which are the natural consequences of the
social, legal, and economic disabilities which
society of that time placed upon women. There
are passages that preach, of course ; there are whole
chapters of special pleading introduced ; but always
the plot is the main argument.
Maria is the eldest daughter in a home similar
to the Wollstonecrafts'. But she is the favourite
of a wealthy uncle who intends to leave her a
fortune. Seeing that her home life is intolerable,
and thinking matrimony the only refuge for a
woman, he persuades her to marry a young man
who on short acquaintance has impressed her
favourably. The young couple go to London,
256 The French Revolution
where George proceeds to use up Maria's dowry in
a life of dissipation. In a few years his gambling
has reduced them to poverty, and his character
has so far degenerated that he alternately neg-
lects and abuses the forlorn young wife, whom the
death of her uncle has left without a friend to
protect her. When her husband actually attempts
to sell her to a lover in payment of a gambling
debt, she leaves him. Whereupon she discovers
that she and everything she owns are legally the
property of her husband. He hunts her from one
hiding-place to another, with the aid of the law.
Finally he captures her, takes her child from her,
and imprisons her in a private asylum. There she
meets a man whom she learns to love. He helps
her to escape, and persuades her that she is no
longer morally bound to her husband, although
she cannot obtain a divorce. With this man she is
happy, until her husband discovers them, insti-
tutes divorce proceedings against her, and secures
the imprisonment and trial of her lover. Here the
story breaks off, leaving only a few scattered notes
to indicate the tragic ending intended by the
There is a second plot, in the form of a long
digression, to illustrate the wrongs of a woman of a
lower social order. It is the story of the woman
attendant at the asylum who helps Maria and her
lover to escape. Jemima was a foundling. A
wretchedly abused little servant maid, she was
literally forced when scarcely more than a child to
And the English Novel 257
become a social outcast. Every attempt to gain
an honest living being thwarted she becomes a
hardened, determined criminal.
How often have I heard [she says], that every person
willing to work may find employment? It is the
vague assertion, I believe, of insensible ignorance when
it relates to men ; but with respect to women I am sure
of its fallacy, unless they will submit to the most
menial bodily labour ; and even to be employed at hard
labour is out of the reach of many, whose reputation
misfortune or folly has tainted. 1
Such, in Mary Wollstonecraft's opinion, were
the "wrongs of woman. " The book has behind it
the force of conviction growing out of a knowledge
of facts. Mary Wollstonecraft had no illusions
left about the opportunities life offered to the
average middle-class woman of her time. She had
had intimate knowledge of several marriages where
the good home bargained for was by no means
secured. She had furthermore learned by drastic
experience the impossible economic conditions
confronting the self-supporting single woman.
Seamstress, governess, "companion"; these prac-
tically exhausted the list of gainful occupations
open to a young woman without any special talent.
Even Elizabeth Inchbald, for all her ability, found
marriage a necessity. It required the indomitable
courage of a Mary Wollstonecraft to gain even the
1 Mary Wollstonecraft, Posthumous Works, vol. i., p. 112.
258 The French Revolution
most modest economic independence, a century
There are two novels written by her friends in
which under a thin disguise Mary figures as the
heroine: Godwin's St. Leon and Mrs. Opie's
Adelina Mowbray. Both we shall consider in
detail elsewhere. There is little likeness to the
Mary we know in St. Leon's Margaret except-
ing a certain strength and dignity under misfor-
tune. But Mrs. Opie has virtually written a
biography of Mary Wollstonecraft during certain
years of her life, with details changed. In Ade-
lina she has caught some of the charm of Mary's
personality, and does full justice to the essential
purity and nobility of her character, while pointing
out the fallacy of some of her opinions. Mary's
deep and sincere religious belief is emphasized with
great effectiveness. But Mrs. Opie's zeal for draw-
ing a moral makes her Adelina a much more limited
personality than the original. Mary was never
crushed by the verdict of society, and her marriage
with Godwin was hardly a recantation. She never
attacked marriage in theory; only the intolerable
marriage laws of her time. In any case, Mary
Wollstonecraft 's views on marriage were a very
unimportant part of her contention for the right
of women to human dignity and economic inde-
pendence, and the emphasis given to this phase of
her life is justified only in a work of pure fiction
like Adelina Mowbray.
And the English Novel 259
SECTION 3: SOME OTHER "RIGHTS OF WOMEN"
Perhaps the earliest novel in our period dealing
with the woman question is a rather stupid narra-
tive sermon by "Prudentia Homespun" (Mrs.
West), entitled The Advantages of Education, or,
The History of Maria Williams (1793). This is
merely a plea for fewer "accomplishments" and
more solid domestic virtues in young ladies of
the day, and has little connection with the new
In the closing years of the century appeared a
curious bdok by James Lawrence, The Empire of
the Nairs, or The Rights of Women. An Utopian
Romance. This was suppressed in England, but
immediately appeared in France. The plot is
fully outlined in the Revue des Romans, and a num-
ber of quotations from it are available. 1 It is
difficult, of course, to determine without reading
the book the nature of the author's purpose. It is
incredible that this Utopia should be the expression
of a serious opinion. Possibly it may be a satire
on the theories of Godwin and Rousseau, after the
manner of Swift. But the extreme indecorum of
the method employed casts suspicion upon the
sincerity of any "purpose" the author may have
professed, other than that of gaining a certain
notoriety. There is a curious note on the Nairs
1 Gerauld de Saint-Fargeau, Revue des Romans (1839), vol. ii.,
260 The French Revolution
in Robert and Adela which seems to indicate that
this was mistaken for a serious account of a real
To counteract the dangerous vogue of A Vindica-
tion of the Rights of Woman, there was published, in
1795, Robert and Adela, or, The Rights of Women
best Maintained by the Sentiments of Nature. Al-
though it is anonymous, one is quite sure from the
style that the writer was a woman. Like most
novels in letter form it has a variety of sub-plots,
but we need concern ourselves only with the main
narrative. The principal characters are young
Lord Landsford and his two sisters. Lady Sabina
is happily married; her function in the novel is
obviously to represent the ideal of feminine virtue
and wifely docility. The younger sister, Lady
Susan, is a young woman of great beauty and
intelligence; but she has been educated by her
grandmother, who was one of the regrettably in-
creasing number of women corrupted by the new
ideas of independence and equality with men.
However, since this eccentric old lady has left
Susan a considerable fortune as well as a stock of
detrimental ideas, Lord Landsford is not without
hopes of finding a good match for her. He has in
mind a friend of his, Count Robert de Montfort,
an emigre. Susan is pleased with the Count, but
is in no hurry to marry and give up her cherished
independence. From this point the novel is an
account of Susan's outrageous opinions and con-
1 Robert and Adela, vol. ii., p. 95.
And the English Novel 261
duct and the remonstrances of her brother and
sister. Sometimes the effect is a little lost upon a
modern reader; one forgets to be shocked when a
young woman says, for instance, that she wishes
she could play cricket. Susan's most serious es-
capade, however, is not without interest. She
visits the House of Commons (from which women
were excluded), disguised as a young officer; a
footnote explains that this was actually done by
Lady Wallace and "some other spirited ladies who
had a mind to gratify their curiosity. "
Lady Susan has many admirers besides the
Count, all of whom she teases unmercifully. But
she obstinately refuses to marry.
To sit down tamely and own a master Oh the
horrid idea! [she writes, and adds, lest there be any
doubt as to the source of her theories], That dear Mrs.
What-do-ye-call-her, who has asserted the rights of
our sex! How I adore her! Would she ever suffer
herself to be sunk into a tame domestic animal ? No !
No ! She knows and will maintain the dignity of the
sex, which she has raised to the level with that of man !
She hardly allows the men to take the lead in any-
Lord Landsford warns her :
Believe me, masculine manners are not calculated to
attract our sex, which I cannot but think, after all
your declarations, is your intention. 'Tis singularity
you aim at, and that affectation, of all others is most
1 Robert and Adela, vol. i. f p. 118.
262 The French Revolution
pernicious and dangerous to women. Your rights are
established when you properly perform the duties of a
wife and mother. 1
The letters of Lady Sabina are of especial in-
terest as giving the author's own opinion on the
whole question, in the person of the ideal woman.
I know that you can easily foil me in argument on
any subject. I have little more to urge than the senti-
ments of a female heart against that lofty way of
thinking, in which I suspect, from your frequent use
of certain phrases and sentiments, you have been
confirmed by Mrs. Woolstone Croft's Vindication of
the Rights of Woman. You insist on an equality of
rights and privileges I cannot understand, perfectly,
what you mean ; for to be in all respects on a footing of
equality with the men seems to me to be impossible.
How can the infirmities and tender cares to which
women are doomed, by the constitution of their nature,
accord with the agitation of public assemblies ? . . . I
am persuaded Mrs. Woolstone Croft would never have
dreamed of writing such a book about the rights of
women if she had been a happy wife and mother ; . . .
the true glory as well as the true happiness of women
consists in the exercise, not of the heroic, but of the
amiable virtues. [Praise of meekness and patience.]
Patience, as Rousseau observes, even under a hus-
band's injustice. Such gentleness of manners is in fact
the best armour in which the delicacy of the female
frame can be clothed; for women are committed by
Providence to the care of fathers, brothers, husbands,
1 Robert and Adda, vol. ii., p. 182.
And the English Novel 263
and other relatives. Usually an amiable woman has
her full share of sway, and in politics, too, it is well
known that women have power without the formality
of constitutional votes. . . . We should always com-
ply with the prevailing system, to deviate may incur
censure, which every female should studiously avoid. 1
Lady Susan is quite unaffected by all this ad-
monition. Her brother in despair pronounces her
"unworthy the serious attention of any man of
sense." The Count accordingly turns his atten-
tion to her younger sister, who very opportunely
emerges from a convent school because the exi-
gencies of the plot require an unmarried Sabina.
Susan, in a pique, marries the next man who offers
himself, giving as her reason "that she may have
something to torment." As she neglected to
secure a settlement, her husband makes away with
her property, and beats her. She finally leaves
him, recants her errors, and devotes the remainder
of her life to philanthropy, "on all occasions in-
culcating the maxim that an amiable female
gains everything by assuming nothing : and that the
rights of women are best maintained by the senti-
ments of nature. " 2
So ends the career of Susan as an awful warning.
The Rousseauistic moral is quite clear; although
one is tempted to observe that Susan's troubles
begin only when she gives up her principles by
1 Robert and Adela, vol. i., pp. 179-85.
2 Ibid., vol. ii., p. 310.
264 The French Revolution
marrying. There is an obvious effort at fairness.
The heroine is made very attractive, and at times is
allowed to express her theories with considerable
eloquence. The author has caught Mary Woll-
stonecraft's favourite phrases (even though she
could not spell the name), and uses them in very
clever satire. But one cannot feel that there is
much real connexion between the type of ideas
represented by this wealthy and aristocratic
coquette, to whom social independence is a ca-
price, and those of the struggling girl hack-writer,
to whom economic independence was a grim
There are some interesting discussions of politi-
cal matters in the course of the novel. Writing
from an orthodox Whig point of view the author
contrasts France, "that land of anarchy," with
"this happy island of regulated liberty; for so it is,
whatever men may preach against it. From the
abuses which, in the course of years, have crept
into all states, Britain is not exempt. But I cannot
conceive, because a few repairs are necessary, that
the building should be razed to the ground." 1
The landed gentry are regarded as the mainstay
of the nation. Landsf ord says :
To live at home as our ancestors used to, should be
the aim of our nobility. It was crowding to the court
and neglecting everything for the smile of a prince
that brought France into that horrid anarchy and
convulsion in which it now labours.
1 Robert and Adela, vol. i., p. 9.
And the English Novel 265
He refuses to follow the general tendency to raise
the rents of his tenantry. x
On the other hand, the author is no blind de-
fender of the principle of hereditary aristocracy.
She writes with what was, for that time, consider-
able boldness :
The high pride of families I begin to think somewhat
absurd, having witnessed so many virtues and such a
fund of genius in the lower orders of society that more
than make up for the mere adventitious circumstance
of birth. Superior intellect surely is more than equal
to any title that is dependent on the breath of kings. 2
A later novel, distinctly Tory in its political
point of view, offers a fair sample of what were
considered really advanced ideas on the woman
question during the period of conservative Reac-
tion. Blue Stocking Hall (i827) 3 is written to
defend the thesis that a young lady need not be
entirely uneducated in order to be attractive.
The author in his preface avows himself a recent
convert to this radical doctrine. The plot is simple.
Mrs. Douglas and her three daughters live quietly
on their country estate in Ireland, devoted to
philanthropy, religion, and studious pursuits under
the guidance of a tutor of remarkable attainments.
1 Cf . The Magic of Wealth.
2 Robert and Adela, vol. i., p. 24.
* Blue Stocking Hall is attributed to William Scargill, and also
to Mrs. Jane Webb, in the Boston Public Library catalogue;
but no author is given in the book itself.
266 The French Revolution
The girls study Latin, Greek, modern literature,
mathematics, and a little botany. Young Frank
Howard, Mrs. Douglas's nephew, visits them. He
has heard that his cousins are "learned ladies"
and intends to give his aunt a warning of the error
of her course.
Men of the present day dread a " blue " more than a
scorpion; which argument I believe, never fails with a
mama. To be sure, they cannot unlearn all that old
dominie has crammed into their noddles, but if they
are frightened into careful concealment there is not
much harm done. x
Of course he finds his cousins charming girls, not at
all inclined to pose. His prejudices are shaken.
The second and third volumes are devoted to the
progress of his conversion, and the long arguments
of Mrs. Douglas in favour of the education of
young ladies. She hastens to admit that: "The
great object to which a girl's prospects should tend
from infancy to maturity is marriage," and that
she "prizes one unselfish movement of the heart
above all the intellect that ever adorned the
greatest philosophers. " But the prejudice against
learned ladies is, she thinks, without foundation.
It is only a little learning that is dangerous
to feminine docility. Real learning tends to
humility. Social intercourse and marriage will
gain equally when ladies are permitted to acquire
more culture. Finally, she enters into an elaborate
1 Blue Stocking Hall, vol. i., p. 30.
And the English Novel 267
argument to prove that the education of women is
neither explicitly nor implicitly forbidden in the
Mrs. Douglas carefully disavows any sympathy
with the Vindication of the Rights of Woman'
A book [she says], which long ago found its resting
place amidst dust and cobwebs. The French Revolu-
tion set many heads distracted and loosened the whole
framework of our morals, but we are sobered, and have
consigned to oblivion the grosser absurdities of that
disjointed period. 2
There is a secondary discussion running through
the book which is very significant. Education, the
author insists, is only for the upper classes. "The
accomplishment of reading, considered without
reference to religious instruction, is about as neces-
sary and suitable to a poor labouring man as a
gold snuff box would be. " 3 Reading of the Bible
might be allowed, but: "The ethics of Mr. Cobbett
and the religion of Mr. Carlile are better kept from
the poor. " 4 " The will of God has made inequality
the very essence of every social system. No spread
1 Blue Stocking Hall, vol. i., p. 218. Contrast Mary Wollstone-
craft's vigorous treatment of this time-worn argument, in chapter
v. of the Vindication of the Rights of Woman. "Were an angel
from heaven to tell me that the account of the Fall of Man were
literally true, I could not believe what my reason told me was
derogatory to the character of the Supreme Being."
'Blue Stocking Hall, vol. i., p. 222.
*Ibid., vol. i., p. 138.
Ibid., vol. i., p. 150.
268 The French Revolution
of knowledge can improve the lot of him who must
till the soil by the sweat of his brow. " x
It is interesting to note the author's antipathy
to the poems of Byron. Mrs. Douglas will not
allow a copy of Don Juan in her library; she de-
clares "Byron, like Milton's Satan, stands pre-
eminent at the head of all mischief makers of the
present time. " 2 3
Such were three typical novels of the "Rights of
Women." The Wrongs of Woman expresses the
spirit of the Industrial Revolution, in terms
coloured by the philosophies of the French Revolu-
tion. It speaks for the women the Sentimentalists
ignored ; the women not provided with comfortable
fortunes or affectionate male relatives eager to
support them in idleness. These were the women
who, finding that the old ideals had no cognizance
of them or of the economic conditions that pro-
duced them, were demanding a new and nobler
The Rights of Woman Best Maintained by the
Sentiments of Nature is a contemporary protest of
the older Sentimentalists, re-enforced by Rousseau-
ism, against these grimly iconoclastic women of the
great Revolutions. Not unfair in its criticism, not
unkindly in its satire, but not quite comprehend-
1 Blue Stocking Hall, vol. i., p. 154.
3 Ibid., p. 279.
s Zeluca: or, Educated and Uneducated Women (1815) may be
an earlier treatment of the same subject, but it is unfortunately
And the English Novel 269
ing because aware only of the comfortably wealthy
classes, this is the generous and dignified com-
ment of the older ideal upon the newer.
Last of all, in an age when the idealisms of the
Revolution are dead, Blue Stocking Hall is the
contribution of the Reaction at its worst. Mary
Wollstonecraft's noble and eloquent demand for a
higher ideal and the right to work has dwindled
into a simpering plea that "young ladies," for-
sooth, be no longer forbidden to dabble in Latin
and Greek. Mary Astell had asked as much a
hundred years before. But an age so complacent
in accepting poverty and ignorance as the divinely
ordained lot of the working-man, is not an age to
err through over-enthusiastic advocacy of fantastic
"Rights of Woman."
SOME OTHER FORMS OF LITERATURE
AFFECTED BY THE FRENCH
SECTION I: THE POETS
The French Revolution and the English Poets.
The influence of the French Revolution upon the
poetry of the time has been fully discussed in at
least three most admirable books devoted pri-
marily to that subject. 1 It would be out of place
here to attempt to do more than recall briefly some
of the conclusions reached in these comprehensive
The poets whose works reflect the ideals of the
Revolution fall into three distinct groups, in order
of time, i . There are the precursors of Revolu-
tion : certain poets whose works, considered in the
light of later developments, seem to foreshadow the
1 Dr. A. E. Hancock, The French Revolution and the English
Poets; Professor Edward Dowden, The French Revolution and
English Literature; and Dr. Charles Cestre, La Revolution et les
Poetes Anglais (1709-1809). To which may be added the first
two chapters of Professor Dowden's Studies in Literature from
1789 to 1877.
The English Novel 271
coming philosophies, although in truth they are lit-
tle more than humanitarians and Sentimentalists,
with the correct Whig principles in politics. Of
these poets Cowper and Crabbe are representative.
2. During the actual period of the Revolution,
the currents of popular feeling were reflected in the
minds of the so-called Lake Poets, Wordsworth,
Coleridge, and Southey. To these may be added
two independent writers, Burns and Blake. 3.
Finally, after the close of the true Revolutionary
period, during the later Napoleonic wars and the
period of Reaction, come the poets of the after-
glow; Byron and Shelley, and their lesser con-
temporaries, Moore, Leigh Hunt, and Landor. x
William Cowper was, according to Professor
Dowden, " undesignedly and unawares, the chief
representative of Revolutionary sentiment in the
days before the Revolution." 2 Cowper was an
orthodox Whig in politics and an ardent Evangeli-
cal in his religion. 3 Although the denunciation of
1 Professor Dowden discusses the work of all these poets, in the
order given, adding various other works (many of which we have
already considered in Chapter II). Dr. Cestre confines himself to
the poets of the Revolution proper, considering the work of
Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey in great detail, and adding
an excellent chapter on Burns and Blake. Dr. Hancock selects
four poets as representative; Shelley, Byron, Wordsworth, and
Coleridge. These he discusses in the order named, with the
addition of a chapter on Godwin and another on the French
2 Dowden, French Revolution and English Literature, p. 30.
J On this point Professor Dowden makes an observation signi-
ficant in connection with the relation which we have traced
272 The French Revolution
luxury and certain other markedly Rousseauistic
elements find place in his verse, "it was less by
virtue of his ardour in behalf of political liberty,
genuine as it was, than by his feeling for simplifica-
tion and his humanitarian sentiment that Cowper
belongs to the Revolution." 1 When the Bastile
fell, Cowper was an old man ; his period of original
writing was over; and the new hopes of the time
found him apparently apathetic.
Cowper's younger contemporary, Crabbe,
touches the theories of the Revolution only on its
humanitarian side. But of the facts that lay
below the surface of the movement, the terrible by-
products of the Industrial Revolution, he wrote
with a grim realism unrelieved by any Utopian
visionings for the future.
The earliest of the true Revolutionists was Burns,
the poet of Equality. Remote from the sphere of
Pure Reason philosophies and of Sentimentalism,
from the very life of the time his poetry "sounds
the note for the revolt of the proletariat." 3 Pro-
fessor Dowden adds:
So long as the Revolution retained a philosophic
and doctrinaire aspect, it left Burns almost untouched.
between the Revolutionists and certain forms of dissent: "The
gospel of Rousseau is translated by Cowper into the gospel
according to St. Paul. The combination is a curious and interest-
ing one for literary study, of the sentiment of the Revolution
with the faith and fervor of the Evangelical revival" (p. 41).
1 Dowden, French Revolution, etc., p. 30.
2 Ibid., etc., p. 140.
And the English Novel 273
It is only when the Revolution became violent, tragic,
and essentially a movement of the popular masses,
when it ceased to be a declaration of abstract prin-
ciples and passed into a conflict of the passions that
Burns was deeply moved. 1
His Revolutionism expressed itself in songs passion-
ate and satiric, and in several escapades which
sorely endangered his livelihood as an exciseman.
For Burns was a true proletarian in this also, that
he was often forced into submission for bread and
butter reasons when below his surface docility the
fires of revolt still burned.
Another poet somewhat out of the main current
of Revolutionary philosophy was William Blake.
In 1791, Blake was employed by Joseph Johnson to
illustrate Mary Wollstonecraft's Original Stories.
This brought him in contact with the little group
of radical writers that gathered at Johnson's
weekly dinners: Paine, Home Tooke, Godwin,
Holcroft, and the rest. Under this stimulus Blake
published a poem on the Revolution, now lost.
But it is not to be supposed that either the philo-
sophies of the Johnson circle or the social unrests
of the time ever really penetrated the conscious-
ness of Blake. Reason and sense of fact were alike
subordinated to his glorious but undisciplined
imagination. It is the Revolution as a spiritual
entity, an eternal, archetypal Revolution quite
distinct from the actual political phenomena, that
1 Dowden, French Revolution, etc., p. 146.
274 The French Revolution
lives in the Marriage of Heaven and Hell and the
Song of Liberty, and whose failure cast a shadow
over the Songs of Experience. Dr. Cestre says of
Dans 1'isolement moral oft il se complalt, entour de
belles fictions et de douces Emotions, la Revolution
frangaise ne 1'atteint que sous une forme, pour ainsi
dire, ge'ne'ralise'e. II ne connait ni ses doctrines
philosophiques, ni ses revendications politiques. II
comprend seulement qu'une souffle puissant d'es-
peYance et de justice traverse la terre. II croit & une
renovation prochaine et complete de cette societe",
pour laquelle il a une repulsion instinctive. II voit,
dans la Revolution, un eVenement voulu par Dieu
pour ramener ici-bas la vertu et le bonheur. Le
monde id6al des Songs of Innocence va se
Wordsworth's Revolutionism resembles that of
Blake in one respect at least; he had little or no
grasp of the real social and economic forces at
work, and his mind was ill at ease in an atmo-
sphere of pure reason. An account of his relation
to the Revolutionary movement must concern
itself primarily with his subjective experiences. To
summarize briefly Dr. Hancock's chapters: the
French Revolution served to humanize Words-
worth. In his early life the love of nature was his
absorbing interest. His mind was extraordinarily
sensitive and receptive; possessing, moreover, a
"clairvoyant quality," a sense of "plastic power"
informing the visible world.
1 Cestre, La Revolution et les Pottes Anglais, p. 210.
And the English Novel 275
He acquired a faith in the existence of the things of
the spirit, and in a Supreme Being who revealed by
gleams the highest truths, and further, a faith in the
mind itself as an active and creative thing, adding to
experience contributions of its own. 1
In 1790 and again in 1791, Wordsworth went to
France, but felt only a perfunctory interest in the
political drama that was acting there. His friend-
ship with the enthusiastic young republican Beau-
puis awakened in him a like Revolutionary ardour,
based, however, upon sympathy rather than under-
standing. On his return to England Wordsworth
avowed himself a Revolutionist, remaining un-
shaken by England's declaration of war in 1793,
and even extenuating the violence of the Terror. a
This emotional enthusiasm lasted until 1796,
when it became apparent that France had entered
upon a campaign of conquest. At this point,
"bereft of the support of his feelings, he began
to rationalize," under the influence of Godwin. 3
The result was disastrous to his earlier
Hume showed that if there was no more in experi-
ence than Locke's view permitted it to contain, then
the hope of any transcendent knowledge or faith for
humanity was indeed gone. 4
1 Hancock, The French Revolution and the English Poets, p. 129.
'Ibid., p. 136.
J In his Letter to the Bishop of Llandaff.
* Professor Royce, quoted by Hancock, p. 139.
276 The French Revolution
To a mind like Wordsworth's the loss of a super-
rational belief was agony. The Borderers marks the
point at which he rebels against the tyranny of
Pure Reason. 1 "It is a reductio ad absurdum of
the doctrine that the individual intellect should be
the sole guide of conduct." 2 Wordsworth re-
turned to the lake country that he loved, and there
found peace once more in communion with nature,
building up for himself an almost mystical inter-
pretation of life ; that "the sensitive, receptive, and
creative mind obtains through nature's manifold
forms the intimation of transcendent truths."
Dr. Hancock concludes:
The French Revolution as a reform humanized
Wordsworth, but its philosophy threatened to in-
validate his earlier experiences ; it served, through his
reaction against it, to stimulate his constructive
power, and it was the indirect cause of his latter con-
servatism and faith. 3
Like Wordsworth, Coleridge was temperament-
ally antipathetic to the materialistic and atheistic
elements in Revolutionism. His individualism
was transcendental rather than sceptical. Never-
1 The Borderers, written in 1797.
2 Hancock, French Revolution, etc., p. 141.
s Ibid., etc., p. 122. Professor Dowden, in his Studies in Liter-
ature (chapter i.), gives a very illuminating discussion of Word-
worth's relation to the nineteenth-century Transcendental
movement. This, however, hardly falls within the scope of our
subject, excepting as it illustrates the subsequent metamorphoses
of Revolutionary Sentimental Individualism.
And the English Novel 277
theless, he too was attracted for a time by the
finer significances of the Revolution. He greeted
the fall of the Bastile with an ode. In 1793, he de-
nounced the coalition against France and satirized
the use of Christianity as a pretext for violence.
In 1794, he contributed to the radical Morning
Chronicle a series of sonnets in praise of the Revolu-
tionary leaders. The Religious Musings, in the
same year, show strong influences of Rousseau and
Godwin. But Coleridge was always discriminating
in his acceptance of Godwin. In 1794, he wrote of
Godwin appeared to me to possess neither the
strength of intellect that discovers truth nor the
powers of imagination that decorate falsehood. He
talked sophisms in jejune language. I like Holcroft
a thousand times better, and consider him a man of
much greater ability. 1
By 1795 Coleridge was bitterly opposed to
Godwin, attacking his philosophy in the Bristol
Lectures and in the Watchman, and withdrawing all
his former praises. In the Bristol Lectures 2 Cole-
ridge distinguishes clearly between Revolution in
the abstract and the concrete political phenomena
in France. He divides the "opponents of things
as they are" into four classes:
1 Hancock, French Revolution, etc., p. 169. This estimate is of
interest, in connection with the pre-eminence we have given to
Holcroft in our discussion of the novel.
1 Delivered in 1795. Afterward printed under the title Con-
dones ad Populum.
278 The French Revolution
First, men unaccustomed to thorough investigation,
whose minds are excited by flagrant evils, and who give
an indolent vote in favour of reform. Second, men
who hate priest and oppressor, who listen readily to
the demagogues, and whose hearts are thereby in-
flamed to revenge. Third, those who, without waver-
ing sympathies or ferocity, desire reforms from motives
of self-interest. They desire the abolition of privi-
leged orders and the removal of restrictions only for
their own benefit. 1
The fourth class, in which Coleridge includes
himself, are "the glorious band of disinterested
patriots." Certainly at the time these lectures
were written there was no foundation for the
charge that Coleridge was a Jacobin. He shows
a very undemocratic tendency to distrust the
people as a whole and a distinctly hostile attitude
towards the main body of the new doctrines.
The Pantisocracy scheme, which Coleridge
proposed to Southey in 1794, was Sentimental,
Rousseauistic, but not essentially Revolutionary.
There is the greatest possible difference between
desiring to change the entire structure of society,
and being content to escape from society to an
artificially perfected environment. Such colonizing
schemes are often resorted to by Revolutionists
who have lost hope; but this by no means identifies
them with Revolution. Coleridge himself says of
Pantisocracy: "What I dared not expect from
1 Hancock, French Revolution, etc., p. 172. Cf. other analyses
of Revolutionism by its opponents, in Chapter V.
And the English Novel 279
constitutions of government and |whole nations,
I hoped from religion and a few chosen in-
The course of events gradually concentrated
Coleridge's love for humanity into the more
conventional channels of patriotism; he became a
decided Nationalist. In 1797 was published the
Ode to France, also called Recantation, which
appears, says Professor Dowden, "hazardously
near to political despair." 3 This marks the final
break between Coleridge and the Revolutionists.
But in truth he had never been genuinely in accord
with the movement as a whole, however much
he may have sympathized with certain phases
Southey, like Wordsworth and Coleridge, was
captivated in his youth by the fine idealism and
optimism of the Revolution. Under the impulse of
this early enthusiasm he wrote a tragedy, Wat
Tyler, which, as Professor Dowden very justly
observes: "May serve to warn any young poet of
the dangers of making his art a direct vehicle for
political doctrine." 3 Later, his Girondist sym-
pathies led him into writing another political
drama, The Fall of Robespierre, in which Coleridge
collaborated. Southey's third Revolutionary effort
was an epic, Joan of Arc, sound Revolutionism, but
very indifferent literature. Coleridge, examining
1 Hancock, French Revolution, etc., p. 180.
1 Dowden, The French Revolution, etc., p. 210
3 Ibid., etc., p. 162.
280 The French Revolution
it years afterward, "was astonished at the trans-
mogrification of the fanatic virago into a modern
novel-pawing proselyte of the Age of Reason, a
Tom Paine in petticoats, but so lovely!" T
In the volume of Minor Poems, published in
1797, the humanitarian note predominates. 2 Hu-
manitarian sentiment was, after all, the strongest
element in Southey's Revolutionism, and this re-
mained when, like the other Lake Poets, he lost
faith in the power of the Revolution to bring about a
happier state of society. It is not quite fair to call
Wordsworth, Coleridge, and Southey lost leaders.
Their defection was inevitable. In any case,
leaders of Revolutionary thought they never
The opponents of the Revolution were not with-
out their representation in the verse of the time.
In November, 1797, appeared the Anti- Jacobin, a
Weekly Review, under the direction of Gifford and
a brilliant group of young Tories. This periodical
continued for nearly five years to bombard the
new philosophies with shafts of pointed ridicule.
Satires and parodies without number were directed
against the solemn absurdities of Pure Reason and
Sentimentalism. This was the criticism, not
merely of political prejudice, but of wit and sound
sense, an echo from the age of Pope. One cannot
but feel that it was heartily deserved.
1 Dowden, French Revolution, etc., p. 167.
2 This contains a poem called The Triumph of Woman, dedi-
cated to Mary Wollstonecraft.
And the English Novel 281
So ends, in a note of triumphant satire, the
poetry of the Revolutionary period. The age of
generous hopes and of lawless individual enthusi-
asm is dead. The forces of conservatism and
expediency reign undisturbed. There remain for
idealism only a small group, the poets of the after-
glow; these, and one bright spirit like an evening
star. Of that one we have spoken already, in a
more fitting place. Not Shelley, but Byron is
the true representative of this latter age; a judg-
ment which the popular verdict of the time
The forces of conservatism had conquered, but
they paid dear for their victory. Byron casts
up the score, and finds that the bargain was not
altogether a good one. The apotheosis of ex-
pediency was but a poor substitute for social
idealism. The curse of Sentimentalism was in no
wise lifted by the repudiation of democracy. The
real aristocracy of intellect, the fine deferences and
disciplines of the Age of Authority, were not so
easily restored. Southey as poet laureate might
recant his Revolutionism, but there was found no
Dryden to replace him.
Of such an age is Byron at once the representa-
tive and the critic. Hating his time, both for what
it was and for what it had made of him, he lacked
the power to rise above it. He is the poet of
Revolt, not of Revolution. The intense senti-
mental individualism of Rousseau, alternates in
his verses^ with the mocking iconoclasm of the
282 The French Revolution
Anti- Jacobin. Only Byron's love of liberty re-
mained unspoiled for him ; and this was in the end
his salvation from a life of half -sincerities.
Three lesser poets must be mentioned who spoke
for liberty and social idealism under the Holy
Alliance: Landor, natural aristocrat and follower
of Milton; Leigh Hunt, with his "bright chivalry
for whatever assumed to itself the cherished
name and aspect of liberty" 1 ; and Moore, whose
Fudge Family in Paris 2 and his Fables for
the Holy Alliance 3 are second only to Don Juan
in satiric cleverness. These escaped to some
extent from the false conservatism of the age,
but their songs and satires are altogether a less
serious indictment of it than the mocking titan-
ism of Byron.
Such was the reflection of the Revolution in the
poetry. Of the poets of its earlier periods we may
say that a study of the Revolution adds more to the
interpretation of their work than their work adds
to an understanding of Revolutionism. They were
merely caught for a time in the fierce eddy of
popular feeling, returning afterwards, somewhat
disillusioned, to the serene course of their own
meditations. It was only as a lost cause that the
Revolution found its full poetical expression, and
the Reaction its satiric criticism.
1 Dowden, French Revolution, etc., p. 249.
2 Fudge Family in Paris, published in 1818.
3 Fables for the Holy Alliance, published in 1823.
And the English Novel 283
SECTION 2: THE DRAMA
The French Revolution and the English Drama. *
The period of French Revolutionary influence in
England was not one of the great ages in the history
of the drama. It was a time of deep-seated changes
and profound unrests. There was a continuous
war taxing the country heavily in lives and in
money. In such a time men go to the theatre to be
amused, to get away from the problems of the
time, not to gain a deeper insight into them.
Nevertheless, the theatres reflected to some extent
the principles of the Revolution and the reaction
Dates have an especial significance here. It will
be remembered that in England those genuinely
understanding the new theories were a compara-
tively small group, composed largely of young
writers and thinkers. When word came from
France of the summoning of the States General and
the fall of the Bastile, the country was on the whole
pleased. It seemed at first merely an affirmation
of generally accepted Whig principles. But later
events in France cast discredit upon the principles
of the Revolution. In 1793, Pitt saw a chance to
profit by the disturbances in the English struggle
for a world market for her increased manufactures,
and accordingly he forced England into a war with
France to defend the sacred principles of religion
1 This section is intended to be little more than a brief explana-
tion of the material gathered in the Appendix.
284 The French Revolution
and monarchy. These conditions operated to-
gether to produce a complete revulsion in popular
feeling. A war always deluges a country with a
certain type of unthinking jingo patriotism. The
small body of real Revolutionary thinkers came to
be regarded as a menace to society. The country
at large became hypersensitive to any taint of
Revolutionary philosophy or propaganda. The
government was almost hysterical in its zeal for
All these changes in feeling were reflected in the
acting drama of the time. From 1789 to 1793 a
play was all the more favourably received for
containing sympathetic allusions to the Revolu-
tion in France. In 1793, France declares war and a
censor stops a play of Cumberland's for a fancied
political reference. From that date direct allusions
to the French Revolution are barred. Instead,
there is a continued deluge of plays abusing France
and celebrating the war, Royalty, Britannia, and
so forth, all written in a fine frenzy of patriotism
and imbecility and finding favour with a public
full of the same sentiments. Verily, St. Jingo was
the patron of the time.
Meanwhile the Revolutionist-baiting goes mer-
rily on. The censor and a majority of the pub-
lic are cordially agreed that the theatre is no
place in which to illustrate new and possibly
dangerous theories. But the doctrines of the so-
called Revolutionists bear such a curious resem-
blance to mere ethical generalizations and moral
And the English Novel 285
commonplaces that they are not always easy to
identify. Hence the public becomes capricious
and is apt to attach to almost any passage a politi-
cal significance never dreamed of by the author.
A few plays with real implications of Liberty,
Equality, and Fraternity slipped by unobserved.
But poor Holcroft had the misfortune to get him-
self effectually identified in the public mind with
the detested party, and audiences became very
subtle in finding dangerous tendencies in his
In the drama as well as in the novel, Holcroft
may be taken as our representative Revolutionist.
His position as a dramatist was a prominent one.
Besides being the author of fifteen or more plays,
and himself a fairly successful actor, he was for
two years the editor of a periodical called the
Theatrical Recorder. J
Yet comparatively few of Holcroft's plays are
sufficiently doctrinary to be of importance in
this discussion. Even those few are of interest
chiefly as they show how sensitive were the preju-
dices that could take offence at them. Holcroft
himself complains that "present and local appli-
cations are so liable to be made where none are
His only play with a frankly avowed doctrinary
purpose is the School for A rrogance (1791). This is
a satire on pride of rank and pride of wealth. A
French count of illustrious ancestry falls in love
1 1805, 1806.
286 The French Revolution
with the daughter of a London alderman and is
soundly snubbed by her vulgar mama, who knows
of no country but England and thinks herself the
greatest lady in that. His lady-love points out to
him that after all his own intense consciousness of
rank has in it not much more true nobility of mind
than the absurd pretences of her ignorant mother.
Hazlitt says of this :
The School for Arrogance is the first of the author's
pieces in which there appeared a marked tendency to
political or philosophical speculation. Sentiments of
this kind, however, and at that time, would rather
have intended to increase than diminish the popularity
of the piece. A proof of this is that the very epilogue
(which is seldom designed to give offence) glances that
Such is the modern man of high-flown fashion?
Such are the scions sprung from Runny-Mead!
The richest soil bears oft the rankest weed!
Potato-like, the sprouts are worthless found;
And all that's good of them is underground. 1
In 1793, Love's Frailties was acted at the Hay-
market. A considerable disturbance was caused
by the following speech: "I was bred to the most
useless and often the most worthless of all pro-
fessions that of a gentleman." Genest says:
"Considering the political ferment of the time,
the manager was imprudent in allowing this short
1 Hazlitt, Memoirs of Hokroft, vol. ii. f p. 86.
And the English Novel 287
speech to be spoken. ' ' Holcrof t says in his preface :
"The persons offended, though violent, were few.
Their intention doubtless was good. The same
cannot be said for their intellect."
Holcroft's next play, The Deserted Daughter,
was published under another name, because, as
Genest says, "Holcroft in 1795 laboured under
violent political prejudices." In 1798, Knave Or
Not met with a cool reception for the same reason.
Holcroft says in his preface that the acting version
was cut, "particularly the passage where Morose
inquires into his qualifications for being a lord. "
Like Mrs. Inchbald, Holcroft did some of his
best work in a play of humanitarian sentiment.
He treats dramatically the life of De L'Epee, the
famous French teacher of the deaf. The play is
entitled Deaf and Dumb.
A priori, one would expect the plays of William
Godwin to hold a position of considerable im-
portance in this discussion. Such is not the case
however. Godwin is the author of two plays,
Antonio* and Faulkner.* But we need not seek
for political prejudice to explain their unpopu-
larity. Like the novels of Godwin they exhibit a
sombre, oppressive kind of power and a strong
tendency toward the Gothic Romance type. But
as plays they have little value and of Revolu-
tionary doctrines they exhibit no trace.
Another play in which we might reasonably
1 Acted December 13, 1800, at Drury Lane.
'Acted December 10, 1807, at the Haymarket.
288 The French Revolution
expect to find the influence of the author of Politi-
cal Justice is the younger Colman's popular drama-
tization of Godwin's frankly doctrinary novel,
Caleb Williams. The Iron Chest was first acted
at Drury Lane March 12, 1796. The novel on
which it was based, Caleb Williams or Things As
They Are, was intended, it will be remembered, to
illustrate how completely the machinery of justice
may be perverted by the rich and powerful to their
own ends. The novel contains one chapter in which
the author discusses with genuine feeling the evils
of the English prison system; in the play all this is
carefully omitted, only the story remaining.
Godwin's arraignment of the prison system does
however find a place in the drama, in the work of
his friend Mrs. Inchbald. The title of her play,
Such Things Are, immediately suggests the sub-
title of Godwin's novel. The play was, the preface
tells us, written in 1786, some time before the
publication of Caleb Williams. But the connex-
ion is none the less traceable. The authors were
early identified with the same school of thought
and an intimate personal friendship, if nothing
more, existed between them. Both works are
inspired by that spirit of hurnanitarianism which
went hand in hand with the spirit of the French
Revolution in England ; the pointing out of individ-
ual abuses was only a corollary to a denunciation
of the existing social order.
Such Things Are is founded on the character of
John Howard whose noble work of prison investi-
And the English Novel 289
gation earned him the thanks of the House of
Commons in 1774. It is interesting to note here
that Howard's book on lazarettos was published
in the eventful year 1789. "Haswell, " his repre-
sentative in the play, is drawn with rare dignity
and sincerity of feeling. The main plot is as
follows : Scene : an island in the East Indies. The
leader of a rebellion loses his wife in the struggle.
He becomes Sultan and, embittered by grief,
adopts harsh measures against political prisoners.
Haswell visits the prisons (good descriptive
scene), and pleads in vain with the Sultan for
reforms. Eventually, however, he gains the confi-
dence of the Sultan and persuades him to visit the
prisons for himself. In the worst of them the
Sultan finds his lost wife. Haswell's speech to
the Sultan at this point is striking:
Your wife you will behold, whom you have kept in
want, in wretchedness, in a damp dungeon for these
fourteen years, because you would not listen to the
voice of pity. Dread her look, her frown Not on her
account alone, but for hundreds of her fellow sufferers ;
for while your selfish fancy was searching with wild
anxiety for her you loved unpitying, you forgot
others might love like you. x
Mrs. Inchbald rarely forgets the larger significance
of the individual case. She is arraigning that
stupidity of the imagination which, so long as the
1 Mrs. Inchbald, Such Things Are, Act V., Sc. 3.
290 The French Revolution
evils of the system do not touch one's self, is con-
tent with things as they are.
In connexion with that defiance of creeds,
miscalled " irreligion, " that characterized the
Revolutionary thinkers, it is significant that " Has-
well" says the full statement of his humanitarian
principles is found in "a book called The Christian
The sub-plot of this remarkable play is a clever
satire on Lord Chesterfield's advice to his son, the
cynical worldly wisdom of which was abhorrent
to the Revolutionists.
Mrs. Inchbald's other plays show traces of the
same point of view, but none decidedly enough to
entitle them to a place in the present discussion.
There is one play of the opposing party which
merits attention: Sheridan's Pizarro (May 24,
1798). Sheridan was a figure of some importance
in the political as well as in the literary world; a
prominent M.P. attached to the party of Fox.
This gives the play an almost official significance.
Genest says of the speech of Rolla to the soldiers :
Its primary object was to reprobate the principles
of the French Revolution. Such was the popularity
of this T. that the king could not resist his desire to
see it. a
It is of interest to note some extracts from this
much-applauded semi-official discussion of the
1 Mrs. Inchbald, Such Things Are, Act III., Sc. 2 .
3 Genest, English Stage, note to May 27, 1798.
And the English Novel 291
They by strange frenzy driven fight for power, for
plunder, and extended rule; we for our country, our
altars, and our homes. They follow an adventurer
whom they fear and obey a power which they hate;
we serve a monarch whom we love a God whom we
adore. . . . They call on us to barter all the goods we
have inherited and proved for the desperate chance of
something better which they promise. The throne
we honour is the people's choice: the laws we reverence
are our brave fathers' legacy. 1
It seemed to young thinkers of the next few
decades that all fine idealisms were shattered;
barred forever from attempting a practical part in
the progress of social development. But the spirit
of the French Revolution was not destroyed, only
forced to remain underground and to find expres-
sion in less direct ways. In this latent period of Re-
volutionism there appear with increasing frequency
plays built about the type-figure of the Benevo-
lent Outlaw, the man who feels a fundamental
wrong in the social system against which he
must forever rebel without having the power
to change it, and who is forced outside the social
order by all that is strong or noble in his own
nature. This is the type which finds expres-
sion in much of Byron's work. But the Benevo-
lent Outlaw manifested a tendency of the time,
as these plays indicate. It is a mistaken crit-
icism that gives Byron credit for originating
1 Sheridan, Pizaro, Act II., Sc. 2.
292 The English Novel
the type of which he was the most popular
1 The closet dramas of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Southey, Byron,
and Shelley do not properly belong in a discussion of the popular
acting drama. They have been mentioned already in the pre-
ceding section, as poetry.
F)ERHAPS it may be well to summarize the
material which has been presented before we
attempt to formulate our general conclusions.
The true Revolutionists the writers who had
the ability to distinguish the real conflict of ideas
below the surface of events and form a consistent
conviction more or less independent of the changes
in popular feeling these were necessarily a very
limited group. Only three of them were among our
novelists. Of these the earliest and in every way
the most truly representative was Thomas Hoi-
croft. His Revolutionism was no lightly adopted
surface philosophy, but was created from within
by the intensity of his social idealism. The vital
principle of his ethical and political system was the
subordination of individual rights and ambitions
to the service of the social whole. Holcroft had
reached that high plane of ethical thought where
the ideals of service and self-development are no
longer in conflict. Furthermore, his idealism is
modified by a considerable knowledge of the world,
and a sense of humour that enabled him to laugh
even at himself without bitterness.
294 The French Revolution
William Godwin was influenced by Holcroft^
but his Revolutionism was dominated by his meta-
physical studies and by his intensely introspective
temperament. Being quite devoid of any saving
sense of fact, he formulated a political system that
was a reductio ad absurdum of the rationalistic
tendencies of his age. His novels are curiously
illustrative of the morbid egoism which is the
result of an over-individualistic philosophy. They
are, however, redeemed by some rather fine pass-
ages of humanitarian feeling.
Shelley's three novels belong to his early and
little known prose period. Although valueless in
themselves, they serve to mark distinct stages in
the development of the author. Shelley's other
prose writings are more significant. These express
certain phases of his Revolutionism which find no
place in his poems, and without which it is im-
possible to form a correct estimate of his political
So far, we have observed two distinct elements
in the Revolutionary philosophy: democratic
individualism and social idealism. In Godwin
individualism dominates. In Holcroft and Shelley
it is completely subordinated to social idealism.
The opponents of Revolutionism wrote a num-
ber of novels, two of which at least show a re-
markably clear insight into the weak points of
democratic individualism. The argument most
frequently advanced against it is its inadequacy
as a system of social or even of personal ethics.
And the English Novel 295
Followed to its logical conclusion it would result
in anarchy and insanity. The second objection is
of a somewhat more theoretical nature. This
involves a classification of the various heterodox
tendencies of the time; arriving at the conclusion
that these all have their basis in a revolt from the
principle of authority, and a substitution of indi-
vidual reason or individual feeling for all general
standards, religious as well as political. Another
conservative protest against the new tendencies is
in the form of an attack on the financial methods
of the new capitalist classes and a lament for the
passing of the older land-owning gentry. x
These attacks are, it will be observed, directed
mainly against democratic individualism. Social
idealism is dismissed with a rather superficial
charge of inexpediency. The representatives of
conservatism seem quite unaware of the rather
fine idealisms implicit in the old order. Their
criticism is purely destructive and quite fails to
distinguish the elements of permanent value either
in the old or in the new ideals.
Revolutionism was not a ready-made hypothesis
which one either accepted or rejected. It was a
movement by which one was more or less in-
fluenced. It is not sufficiently accurate to classify
our novelists merely as "Revolutionists" and
"opponents of Revolutionism." Between the
conscious democratic individualist accepting the
1 Cf. Chapter IV., especially novels of Lucas, Walker, and E. T.
296 The French Revolution
philosophy with a full understanding of its implica-
tions and the equally intelligent defender of the
principle of authority, there was a much larger
number of writers whose opinions ranged through
all possible degrees of sympathy and disapproval.
The finest representative of these Revolution-
ary sympathizers was Robert Bage. Bage was a
man entirely capable of perceiving the full impli-
cations of both philosophies, but he was also
capable of a fine moderation in his enthusiasms.
He was free from Sentimentalism, and his Re-
volutionism was held in check by a large fund of
common sense. It was apparent to him that the
Conservatives and Reactionaries were a little more
wrong than any one else at that time; hence he
was a Revolutionist, with important reservations.
Probably all the other semi-Revolutionists
fancied themselves actuated by a fine discrimina-
tion like that of Bage. But it is only too apparent
that in nine cases out of ten their eclecticism was
sheer muddle-headedness. They were well-in-
tentioned people whose attention had been at-
tracted by some crying evil of the time the prison
system, the slave trade, rotten boroughs or the
like or who had discovered that an aristocracy
of birth was illogical; and who thereupon pro-
ceeded to dabble in Revolutionary philosophy.
They were for the most part entirely unaware of
any fundamental principles involved in the move-
ment which they regarded with such patronizing
And the English Novel 297
It is in this group that we must classify the
lady novelists. Their Revolutionism was in every
case traceable to the influence of some man of
their acquaintance who was a Revolutionist, from
whom they received their political opinions with
exemplary feminine docility. But they in no wise
allowed their philosophic radicalism to interfere
with their religious orthodoxy ; to which they clung
with gentle firmness, as a substitute for thinking.
The new impetus which the feminist movement
received at this time was connected with Revolu-
tionism only indirectly. Its real source was to be
found in the changes arising from the Industrial
Revolution, rather than in the political philoso-
phies of the day, however glibly some of its later
exponents may have used phrases borrowed from
the French Revolution. The principle involved
was not individualism versus authority, but simply
the question of whether a woman was to be re-
garded as a human being with all that that implies
of dignity and responsibility, or whether she was a
sort of secondary creation, valuable only through
her sex attributes. Mary Wollstonecraft's clear-
headed perception of the point at issue and of
the economic situation which had precipitated the
whole discussion constituted the only real contri-
bution of the Revolutionists to the feminist
With this summary of the material presented,
we may perhaps venture a few generalizations
upon special aspects of Revolutionism.
298 The French Revolution
In our discussion of the background of ideas, x we
observed certain parallelisms in the progress and
development of political and theological concepts.
The seventeenth-century movement of democratic
individualism was closely identified with certain
forms of Dissent. The novels which we have
considered indicate that the same connexion
existed between eighteenth-century Revolutionism
and the later theologies of Dissent.
It may be well to summarize our observations
on this point.
Holcroft, like most sensible men, was rather
chary of defining his beliefs. His religion was a
force rather than a formula. But from his critic-
isms on churchmen, and on the absurdity of any
attempt to secure uniformity of belief, we may
conclude that he was pretty well out of sympathy
with the Establishment. It is probable that in his
youth he was attracted for a time by some of the
finer spiritual values of the new Methodist move-
ment. But he was soon repelled by the superficial
enthusiasm to which it was rapidly tending.
There is no difficulty in classifying the religious
opinions of Godwin. The son of a dissenting
minister, educated in a dissenting theological
seminary on a mental diet of metaphysics and
Calvinism, he represents theological individualism
in its most extreme form.
Shelley's atheism has always proved a trap to
the unwary critic. The efforts that have been
1 Cf. Chapter I., Section 2.
And the English Novel 299
made to prove that he was really only a deist, or
that he was on the point of changing his opinions
at the time of his death are distinctly amusing.
Shelley himself, in answer to the question: "Why
do you call yourself an atheist?" said:
It is a word of abuse to stop discussion, a painted
devil to frighten the foolish, a threat to intimidate
the wise and good. I used it to express my abhorrence
of superstition; I took up the word as a knight took
up a gauntlet, in defiance of injustice. 1
From which it is clear that Shelley was quite aware
of the meaninglessness of the word. But so far as
the term has an accepted meaning, Shelley was
quite correct in calling himself an atheist. It is
naturally rather confusing to persons of a literal
mind to find the one profoundly religious per-
sonality in an orthodox but unspiritual age mani-
festing his fervour by a wholesale denunciation of
the very foundations of the creeds. The orthodox
have no cause to be alarmed over his influence,
however, for it is only too apparent that the
majority of people are quite incapable of under-
standing the Shelleyan type of atheism.
Whether Robert Bage was a Friend or not, we
have Scott's opinion that he was "a sectary and
could be a friend neither to the Church of England
nor to the doctrines she teaches." Probably his
theological opinions were much the same as those
of Holcroft. Amelia Opie was brought up a Uni-
tarian and later became a Friend. Mrs. Inchbald
1 Trelawney, Records, p. 62.
300 The French Revolution
was a Roman Catholic with occasional fits of
scepticism. Concerning the other novelists of our
group no record remains on this point. So far as
we know, not one of the Revolutionary novelists
was a member of the Established Church.
The opponents of Revolutionism were very
decidedly aware of the connexion between Dissent
and political radicalism. Lucas and Walker vir-
tually identify the two as phases of the same spirit
of individualistic revolt against authority.
The intimate connexion between religious and
political theory is no new observation. It is at
least as old as Machiavelli's Prince, although it
seems to have been pretty well overlooked in recent
discussions of Revolutionism. The opposition of
Dissenters to the government has been attributed
to discontent arising from their legal disabilities.
That was doubtless a contributory cause. But if
we are interested in the more general principle
involved, we shall have little difficulty in perceiv-
ing an affinity between democratic and theological
individualism that need not go for its explanation
to accidental circumstances like test acts.
Besides the philosophy of Revolutionism, there
is an economic element which has been somewhat
neglected in discussing the literature of the move-
ment. 1 We have already observed in our dis-
1 In fact, Dr. Cestre is the only critic, so far as I am aware, who
treats this aspect of the time in relation to the literature of
Revolutionism. He touches upon it in his Revolution et Les Poetes
Anglais, and also in his Life of Thelwall.
And the English Novel 301
cussion of the background of events how seriously
the entire social structure had recently been
affected by the changes and maladjustments
arising from the Industrial Revolution. The
whole nation was pervaded by social unrests which
influenced the thought of the time to a degree
which it is hard to overestimate.
Our little group of novelists were somewhat
divided in their attitude toward the economic im-
plications of their philosophy. Those whom we
have called the true Revolutionists were willing
to follow social idealism and democratic individual-
ism wherever they might lead. They saw clearly
that political equality was valueless as an ideal if
its attainment was to be merely the prelude to
increased economic inequality.
Holcroft was himself of the "lower" class by
birth and early environment. Consequently his
attitude on industrial questions is quite free from
Sentimentalism and also from indifference. He
saw clearly that it was not for the good of the social
whole that any considerable group should be pre-
vented from maintaining a decent standard of
living. He felt that the complaints of the wage-
workers were not without foundation. But the
spirit of class hatred seemed to him entirely stupid
and harmful. Instead of preaching a doctrine of
violent Revolutionism among the dispossessed
classes, Holcroft addresses the property holders in
a tone of stern and sorrowful admonition. Repent,
and institute reforms of your own accord, lest a
302 The French Revolution
worse thing befall you, is his message. The
possession of wealth he regards not as an absolute
right, but as an obligation to service. This is the
extent of Holcroft's communism.
Godwin, as we might expect, has all manner of
economic whimsies. Property, he says, belongs to
him who needs it most. This is the only property
right that is valid according to political justice.
But Godwin's extreme communism is modified by
some recognition of the inexpediency of its immedi-
ate introduction. The result is, that between the
boldness of his theory and the timidity of his
immediate programme, Godwin contributes just
nothing to the economic wisdom of his time.
Shelley, like Holcroft, is interested primarily in
the moral and intellectual improvement of man-
kind. But being no Sentimentalist, he perceives
that economic questions must be dealt with as a
means to that end. As a true social idealist, he
demands a more equable distribution of wealth,
not on the ground of abstract right, but as a matter
of a higher expediency, because the extremes of
wealth and poverty are alike destructive to the
finer values in life. "Every man has a right to a
certain degree of leisure and liberty because it is
his duty to attain a certain degree of knowledge.
He may before he ought, " says Shelley.
Robert Bage was himself a factory owner; but
his opinions on economic questions are as free from
any class bias as those of the proletarian Holcroft.
If he has rather less to say about the anti-social
And the English Novel 303
effect of extreme poverty, his denunciations of
wealth and luxury are none the less vigorous.
But most of the general sympathizers with the
Revolution were either unaware of any economic
question at all, or took a firm stand for the sacred
rights of property. Mrs. Inchbald is the only one
of the lady novelists who has anything to say on
the matter. She is aware of the intense social
unrests which were threatening a violent outbreak
of Revolutionism among the industrial workers,
and she ironically admonishes the benevolent rich
to "give a little, lest the poor, driven to despair,
should take all. "
The writer who saw most clearly the economic
basis of the conflicts over political theory in France
and in England, was Mary Wollstonecraft. Her
charge, that the extreme solicitude of the dominant
bourgeoisie for the preservation of law and order
was in reality merely a concern for the security of
their own property rights, is amply borne out by
the testimony of her opponents as well as by various
significant events. It is quite clear that Walker
and Lucas, for instance, see in Revolutionism only
a threatened insurrection of the ignorant and
irresponsible masses against their natural superiors
the capitalist classes; an effort on the part of the
lazy and inefficient to overthrow society for their
own gain. Ownership of capital is to them
an absolute right, the protection of which con-
stitutes the chief function of government. It
carries with it no responsibility or obligation.
304 The French Revolution
The function of the poorer classes is to produce as
much as possible. That of the rich is to consume,
and thereby stimulate production. Walker actu-
ally declares that "the rich would do better with-
out the poor than the poor without them." 1
These writers draw no moral inference from the
economic maladjustments, as did Holcroft and
It may be said that a writer's attitude on this
question of property right is the crucial test of his
Revolutionism. Bourgeois capitalism had much
in common with democracy in its opposition to the
hereditary aristocracy. But capitalism soon per-
ceived that the democratic ideal was a dangerous
ally. We have observed how quickly popular
feeling in England was changed when the bourgeois
Constituent Assembly with its property qualifica-
tions for suffrage gave place to the violent democ-
racy of the Paris mob.
There were two antagonistic forces in England
during the Revolution. The force in control of the
government was the new aristocracy of wealth,
inspired not so much perhaps by greed as by the
desire for power, to whom the national prosperity
consisted in the rapid accumulation of capital at all
costs and the securing of commercial supremacy
over other nations. Opposed to them were the
industrial workers and the small property owners,
dispossessed by the Industrial Revolution. These
perceived only the hopeless wretchedness of their
1 Cf. Chapter V.
And the English Novel 305
own condition, and regarded the dominant class
with a bitter unreasoning resentment.
The issue between these two forces was in no
way a moral or intellectual one: it was a blind
elemental struggle for existence and power. Class
hatred was about equally strong on both sides.
Of course each was quite willing to use moral
argument as a weapon to turn public opinion
against the other. The proletariat clearly per-
ceived the sin of greed and luxury, and the bour-
geoisie were fully aware of the evils of laziness and
inefficiency and lawlessness. The rights of man
on the one side, and the sanctity of law, order, and
respect for superiors on the other, were catch
phrases frequently heard in connexion with riots
and harsh repressive measures. But excepting for
a sentimental bourgeois humanitarianism and an
equally sentimental proletarian regard for the
"republican virtues," neither side was willing to
apply moral judgment and discipline to its own
Between these two opposing forces stood the
little group of Revolutionists,' democratic in-
dividualists in their philosophy, but pure social
idealists in their ethical and economic programme.
These writers insist boldly and uncompromisingly
that the issue is in the last resort a moral one, and
that both sides are in the wrong. They refuse to
regard wealth and poverty, individual or national,
as facts of supreme importance in themselves,
excepting in so far as they help or hinder human
306 The French Revolution
development. The right of the individual to do as
he will with his own property they regard as
entirely subordinate to his duty and to the rights
of the social whole. If the social idealists seemed
unduly to favour the proletarian side, it was be-
cause at the time of the Revolution that was
distinctly the oppressed party. But nothing was
farther from their desire than to substitute a reign
of uneducated lawlessness and indolence for a
reign of semi-educated selfishness and greed.
Their doctrine furnished as severe a moral dis-
cipline for the one as for the other.
The principle of social idealism was the true and
abiding contribution of the Revolutionary philo-
sophy to political wisdom. The belief that a high
and conscious purpose transcending petty ex-
pediencies is not merely a factor in sound govern-
ment but its guiding principle, has never been more
courageously maintained. There was sore need of
such a doctrine in the eighteenth century; the
principle of authority was outgrown, and social
idealism was the only thing that could supply its
place as a political faith and discipline.
Social idealism made many mistakes at first;
partly, perhaps, because of its temporary alliance
with democratic individualism. The points of
Burke were well taken ; expediency, the wisdom of
the past, and the organic nature of society had all
been disregarded in an insistence on abstract
principles. But in a right conception of govern-
ment the function of a regard for expediency and
And the English Novel 307
tradition is critical and corrective, not initiative.
When practical considerations succeed in obscuring
the real purpose of government evil is sure to
follow. For social idealism is, after all, only a
higher form of expediency, a perception of what
makes for the highest good of the social whole
rather than for the temporary advantage of some
APPENDIX TO CHAPTER VIII, SECTION 2
LISTS OF PLAYS SHOWING TENDENCIES INFLUENCED
BY THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
The method of presenting the material here col-
lected was chosen, after considerable deliberation, in
the hope of thus giving a more complete view of the
subject than is possible in a treatment, necessarily
limited, of separate writers. This Appendix is in-
tended to supplement Chapter IX, Section 2: the
conclusions of the chapter are based upon both.
The writer is endeavouring to present here the re-
sults of an examination of Genest, covering the period
from 1789 to 1812 inclusive, 1 with a view to throwing
light upon such questions as these: To what extent
was the stage of that period sensitive to current politi-
cal tendencies? How far did the government censor-
ship act as a check on the theatres in this respect?
What was the prevailing political sentiment of the
theatre-going public, and especially, what was their
1 These dates are chosen rather arbitrarily. The first is the
date of the summoning of the States General, the actual beginning
of the French Revolution. The second is chosen as being late
enough in the Napoleonic era to show fully the reaction against
the principles of the French Revolution.
The quotations are all from Genest. Page references are
omitted, as the date is sufficient to locate the passage.
3io The French Revolution
attitude towards the French Revolution? Did the
point of view of the "Revolutionary School" find a
minority representation in the theatre? The answers
might have a decided value in showing us the ten-
dencies of the time in their true proportion. The
adherents of the Revolutionary principles bulk so
large in the literature of the time, that we are some-
times prone to forget how insignificant and despicable
a minority they must have seemed to their contem-
The list, based upon Genest, the Theatrical Re-
corder, and an examination of the plays themselves
whenever available, includes as nearly as possible all
plays appearing for the first time in the period con-
sidered which seem to have a particular bearing
upon the political tendencies of the time. They are
arranged, in the hope of making apparent certain
tendencies, as follows: i. Plays which, in general,
express the reaction against the French Revolution;
which are inspired by the violent patriotism of war
times, and support the policy of those in power. 2.
Plays which have a more direct bearing upon the
principles of the French Revolution in England;
especially, those which caused popular demonstrations
or had difficulties with the censor and licenser.
In such an examination as the present a number of
subordinate tendencies stand out very clearly. One
finds the dramatic representatives of the Gothic
Romance, the Byronic Hero, the Noble Savage, etc.
Most of these topics have but an indirect bearing
upon the subject of this chapter. But there are two
types which seem to me so closely allied to the spirit
of the French Revolution in England that I have
added them to the list, in separate groups. These are
And the English Novel 311
(i) the Benevolent Outlaw or Brigand, of the type of
Schiller's Rauber, and (2) plays built around certain
humanitarian movements, such as prison reform, care
of defectives, abolition of chattel slavery, etc. I have
further noted a few significant revivals of old plays.
PLAYS OP GENERAL PATRIOTIC AND ANTI-FRENCH
SENTIMENT. PLAYS SUPPORTING THE PARTY
IN POWER AND CELEBRATING CUR-
1789, May 19. Laoeudemonos; or, A People Made Happy.
"A loyal effusion, on the King's recovery."
1793, May 3. To Arms; or, The British Recruit
1793, May II. The Rival Soldiers.
X 793> Sept. 12. Caernarvon Castle; or, The Birth of the Prince of
"An extravagant compliment to royalty."
1794, Feb. 29. British Fortitude.
1794, March 9. Siege of Meaux. (PYE.)
Plot: Rescue of nobility from attacks of
peasants after the siege of Poitiers. Exalta-
tion of England.
1794, March 24. Fall of Martinico, or, Britannia Triumphant.
1794, July 1 8. Rule Britannia. (ROBERTS.)
1794, July 2O - Britain's Glory, or, A Trip to Portsmouth.
1794, May 6. Temple of Hymen.
"A masque in honor of the nuptials of the
Prince and Princess of Wales."
1794, Sept. 23. The Rage.
"Said to be full of allusions to the Duke of
1794, Dec. 6. Town Before You. (Mrs. COWLEY.)
(G.) "Ostentatious display of patriotic
1795, Feb. 21. England Preserved.
(G.) "The subject was doubtless chosen
for the sake of introducing patriotic sentiments
and invectives against the French. "
The French Revolution
!795 April 6. Windsor Castle. (PEARCE.
"In honor of the marriage of the Prince and
Princess of Wales."
J 795 May 6. Death of Captain Faulkener; or, British
"English and French frigates appear at
back of stage in act of engagement. "
J 795 June 3. Secret Tribunal.
"In the last scene of the second act, a
compliment to the ' Isle of Glory ' (England) is
introduced with much propriety."
1796, July ii. Siege of Quebec.
1797, Feb. 20. Bantry Bay.
"Founded on the attempt of the French to
land in Bantry Bay. Has nothing to recom-
mend it but its loyalty. "
1797, May ii. Surrender of Trinidad.
1797, Nov. 9. Trip to the Nore.
"Temporary piece to celebrate Lord Dun-
can's victory. Franklin says he wrote it in ess
than a day."
1798, May 21. Escape.
"A Pantomime Interlude, founded on a
recent fortunate event. "
1797, Feb. 27. "Toward the voluntary contribution now
open at the Bank for the defence of our Coun-
1797, Sept. 20. England's Glory, or, The Defeat of the Dutch
Fleet by the Gallant Admiral Duncan.
1798, March 31. Raft; or, Both Sides of the Water.
"A temporary trifle by Cross; it was written
at the time when Bonaparte threatened to
invade England with an army who were to
cross the channel on rafts. "
1798, July 21. Cambro-Britons.
"It would seem from the preface that
Boaden's chief object in writing this was to
show his patriotism and loyalty."
1798, Nov. 6. Rama Droog.
In the last scene British troops take a fort.
And the English Novel 313
1799, Oct. 7. Naval Pillar. (T. DIBDIN.)
1800, Sept. 2. Review; or, Wags at Windsor.
"Review represented at the end by figures
1 80 1, Jan. 29. Veteran Tar.
"At the conclusion, French and English
vessels seen engaging.''
1803, March 5. John Bulls; or, An Englishman's Fireside.
1803, May 20. King John, as altered by Dr. Valpy.
"The allusions to the state of France in 1800
which he has thrown in are contemptible. "
1803, Oct. 24. Maid of Bristol.
"The Epilog was written by the Younger
Colman. It contains some most bitter sar-
casms on Bonaparte, all expressed in very neat
and pointed terms. "
1803, Dec. 13. English Fleet in 1342.
"Dibdin heaps compliment on the English,
upon compliment, in a way that can hardly
fail of being nauseous to any person of good
1805, Sept. 12. Who's Afraid? Hat Hal Hat
"A patriotic effusion, founded on the in-
1805, Nov. II. "A Melo-Drama piece, by Cumberland, to
commemorate the victory and death of Lord
Viscount Nelson. "
1808, Nov. 10. Siege of St. Quentin; or, Spanish Heroism.
"By Hooke; merely written with a view to
introducing some popular sentiments about
the modern Spanish Patriots."
1809, Feb. 1 6. Monody on the Death of Sir John Moore.
I 8o9, July 4. Soldier's Daughter.
1809, Oct. 25. Britain's Jubilee.
"Written to celebrate the entrance of the
king on the fiftieth year of his reign. "
1 8 1 1, June 10. Royal Oak.
" Based on the escape of Charles II. " King
appears as a noble and generous character.
314 The French Revolution
PLAYS HAVING A MORE DIRECT BEARING UPON
THE THEORIES OF THE FRENCH REVOLUTION
IN ENGLAND. ESPECIALLY, PLAYS WHICH
WERE INTERFERED WITH BY THE CEN-
SOR, OR WHICH CAUSED ANY POPU-
1789, Nov. 7. National Prejudice.
1789, Nov. 13. Island of St. Margaret. (Hon. JOHN ST. JOHN.)
"Founded on Voltaire's account of the Man
in the Iron Mask. Iron Mask is confined in a
castle. The mob arise and restore him to his
liberty. The great success with which this
was acted was due to the references to what
was passing in France, and in particular to the
taking of the Bastile. At the conclusion of this
Opera the Temple of Liberty arises from among
the ruins of the castle. "
1791, Dec. 3. A Day in Turkey. (Mrs. COWLEY.)
"The political allusions would have been
better omitted. Death is said to be an Aristo-
crat. If Death be not a complete leveller the
devil is in it. "
1793. The Armorer. (CUMBERLAND.)
"Cumberland wrote a Comic Opera on the
story of Wat Tyler, which being objected to by
the Licenser, he was obliged to remodel it, and
produce it under the title of the Armorer. As
the piece was not printed, it is impossible to
say positively that there was nothing ob-
jectionable in it. ... But certainly no one
but a dog in office could suspect Cumberland of
writing anything of a bad political tendency."
1793, Jan. 20. "On this evening there was no play per-
formed, from respect to Louis XVI., who was
murdered in Paris on that day."
1793, June 7. Fontainebleau.
1793, Sept. 22. Box Holly Challenge.
"Jack Crotchet says to Sir Toby, who has
been reproaching him with being the son of a
And the English Novel 315
printer: 'We that cannot count up our genera-
tions have oftentimes the sense to outwit you
whose ancestors hang by the wall from King
Arthur's time to the present day. . . . What
are they but a catalogue of insignificants? One
printer, one compositor, one poor corrector of
the press, is worth them all and his country
gains more credit by his labors.'"
1794, Feb. 22. Travellers in Switzerland. (BATE DUDLEY.)
Lady satirized for pride of ancestry. Has
taken a dislike to hero merely because he was
without a coat-of-arms. He disguises himself
as a valet, and wins her nevertheless.
1795, March 7. France As It Was. (Altered from Fontaine-
1799, May 24. Pizarro. (SHERIDAN.)
1799, Aug. 21. Red Cross Knights. (HoLMAN.)
"Holman says in his preface he had adapted
The Robbers to the English stage and that it
was refused a licence he acknowledged that
on dispassionate investigation he found much
to justify the licenser's decision. " Appears in
this form altered, and with omissions. "But
unfortunately the spirit has in a great degree
1800, May 12. School for Prejudice; or, Liberal Opinions.
Farce, by T. DIBDIN. Satirizes pride of
rank, and haughty manner to social inferiors.
1802, Jan. 15. Alfonso, King of Castile.
Plot deals with conspiracy against king, and
counter conspiracy to save him. Hero stabs
his friend to save the king.
1803, Dec. Caravan Driver and his Dog.
Scene, in Spain under a cruel king who forms
the villain of the piece.
1803, Dec. Wallace; or The Patriot.
In Scotch theatre, first.
1808, Jan. 12. Wanderer; or, Rites of Hospitality.
Originally founded on the escape of the
Pretender. " The licenser refused his sanction
316 The French Revolution
to the English play, and Kemble was obliged
to change the scene from Scotland to Sweden."
1808, Dec. i. Venoni;or, The Novice of St. Mark's. (LEWIS.)
1809, July I- Killing No Murder.
Suppressed by a Methodist censor because
of some references to the Methodists. Author
inserts a passage ridiculing censor, "Which, as
it touched not politics nor religion, he could
not expunge. " Little bearing upon the Revo-
lution, but illustrated folly and power of the
1809, Sept. Prices raised in Covent Garden. Rioting,
violent and long continued. "Cobbett ob-
served that the demand for old prices was
unreasonable, being a violation of the rights of
property, and an attempt to compel people to
sell entertainment at the price pointed out by
By the final agreement, "The proportion
which had always subsisted between the boxes
and the pit was now done away, the boxes
being for the first time double the price of the
pit. " Very significant in the light of the social
changes resulting from the Industrial Revolu-
1811, Nov. 29. Gustavus Vasa.
"The piece had been announced for repre-
sentation under the title Gustavus of Sweden.
. . . forbidden by Mr. Larpent (the censor).
The only reason that could be conjectured for
this absurd and arbitrary conduct of these
petty tyrants was, that the Ex-king of Sweden
being in England at this time, and the ministers
being determined not to acknowledge him,
they were afraid that people should imagine,
that a play called Gustavus of Sweden had some
reference to him. "
1812, May 15. Day After the Wedding .
"The original title of this piece (John Bull),
And the English Novel 317
is said to have been objected to by the Lord
Chamberlain. It was however restored on the
"To O'Keefe's works must be added Le
Grenadier, meant for presentation at Covent
Garden in 1789 but it was merely the foun-
dation of a play which was never finished.
O'Keefe meant to have exhibited the taking
of the Bastile, and other recent events at
Paris. See his Recollections, vol. ii., p. 143."
(Genest, vol. vii., p. 403.)
A FEW PLAYS WHICH, ALTHOUGH NOT "REVOLU-
TIONARY" IN A STRICT SENSE, EXHIBIT
STRONGLY THE ALLIED HUMANITARIAN
TENDENCIES OF THE TIME
1789, Aug. 5. The Benevolent Planters. (BELLAMY.)
Plot: Lovers reduced to slavery. The
Planters restore them to liberty and to each
1790, Aug. ii. The Basket Maker. (O'KEEFE.)
Plot: A master and servant carried off by
Indians. Servant can weave baskets, master
can do nothing. So Indians force him to serve
(This belongs properly in the preceding
1793, Aug. 24. The Female Prisoner.
1793, Aug. 25. Inkle and Yarico. (COLMAN.)
Anti-slavery. " The only excuse for buying
our fellow-creatures is to rescue them from the
hands of those who are unfeeling enough to
bring them to the market." Plot: Inkle, an
Englishman, is tempted to sell a savage girl,
who has saved his life, and thinks herself his
1799 Negro Slaves. (On the Scotch stage first.)
1800, Sept. 6. The Indian.
318 The French Revolution
1808, May 3. The Jew of Mogadore.
Nabob in the habit of purchasing slaves and
giving them their liberty.
PLAYS OF THE "PHILANTHROPIC BRIGAND" TYPE.
1 789, Aug. 1 1 . Battle of Hexam.
J 793 Aug. 3. The Mountaineers. (CoLMAN.)
Hero driven by his wrongs to flee from
1794, Feb. 25. Fontainville Forest.
1797, May 19. Honest Thieves.
1797 The Borderers. (WORDSWORTH.)
1799, Aug. 21. Red Cross Knights.
Based on Schiller's Die Rauber.
1 80 1, May 4. Adelmorn, the Outlaw.
1805, Aug. 26. Venetian Outlaw.
Holcroft says the plot is from the same
source as that of Venice Preserved.
1805, Oct. 18. Rugantino; or, The Bravo of Venice.
Much the same plot as the preceding play.
1806, April 10. White Plume; or, The Border Chieftain. (DiB-
1807, Feb. 19. Curfew.
Rayner. QOANNA BAILLIE.)
Sir Francis Drake and Iron Arm. (CROSS.)
SOME SIGNIFICANT REVIVALS OF OLD PLAYS
DURING THIS PERIOD.
1789, Oct. 31. Oronooko. (Not acted in five years.)
1795, Oct. 21. Venice Preserved.
"After the third night this play was obliged
to be laid aside on account of some of the
political passages. When Pierre said : 'Cursed
be your Senate, cursed your Constitution!'
he was rapturously applauded."
It appears from Genest that this play was
not performed again for a number of years.
But after 1800 it appears as frequently as ever.
And the English Novel 319
1809, Feb. I. Cato. (Not acted in twenty years.)
1809, March 18. Alexander the Great. (Not acted in twenty
1809, Dec. 27. Tamerlaine.
The following lists are in no way intended to present a com-
plete bibliography of the subject, although they indicate the
principal sources from which such a bibliography might be
obtained. They are intended merely to indicate the principal
works used in the preparation of this study, and to offer a
classified bibliography of the works generally available on the
subject under consideration.
SOURCES FOR LISTS OF NOVELS 1
E. A. BAKER.
Descriptive Guide to the Best Fiction. (1903.)
ZELLA A. DIXON.
Comprehensive Index to Universal Prose Fiction.
JOHN COLLINS DUNLOP.
History of Prose Fiction.
EUSEBE GERAULT DE SAINT-FARGEAU.
Revue des Romans. (Paris, 1839.)
A. L. GOODRICH.
Prose Fiction. A Bibliography.
Catalogues of the following libraries:
Harvard University Library.
Boston Public Library.
1 1 wish to acknowledge an especial indebtedness to a manu-
script card list of prose fiction by Professor C. N. Greenough,
which formed the basis for my working list of Revolutionary
Columbia University Library.
Hammond Collection of Old Novels in the New York Society
Library of the University of Chicago.
British Museum Catalogue.
Yale University Library.
Library of Congress, Washington, D. C.
BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER I
John Thelwall, a Pioneer of Democracy. (1906.)
JOHN RICHARD GREEN.
Short History of the English People.
WILLIAM THOMAS LAPRADE.
England and the French Revolution, 1789-1797.
(In Johns Hopkins University Pamphlets, 1909.)
FREDERIC AUSTIN OGG.
Social Progress in Contemporary Europe. (1912.)
J. H. ROSE.
The Revolutionary and Napoleonic Era. (1895.)
H. MORSE STEPHENS.
European History from 1789 to 1815. (1893.)
H. D. TRAIL.
Social England. (1899.)
On Industrial History:
Outlines of English Industrial History. (1895.)
H. DE B. GIBBINS.
Industrial History of England. (1908.)
G. T. WARNER.
Landmarks in English Industrial History. (1899.)
H. T. WOOD.
Industrial England in the Middle of the Eighteenth Cen-
On the Revolution in France:
F. M. ANDERSON.
The Constitutions and Other Documents of the French
ERNEST BELFORT BAX.
The Last Epoch of the French Revolution. Being a
History of Gracchus Babeuf and the Conspiracy of the
Les Elections et les Cahiers de Paris en 1789. (In Trans-
lations and Reprints.)
Cahier of the Nobility, Baillage ofBlois.
Cahier of the Clergy, Baillage of Blois.
Cahier of the Third Estate, Baillage of Versailles.
P. A. KROPOTKIN.
The Great French Revolution, 1789-1793. (Translation
by F. F. Dryhurst, 1909.)
The French Revolution. A Sketch. (1906.)
H. MORSE STEPHENS.
History of the French Revolution. (1902.)
ARTHUR GUY TERRY.
The Spirit of Propaganda in the French Revolution, 1789-
1793. (Abstract of a Ph.D. thesis presented at the
University of Pennsylvania in 1906.)
Background of Ideas:
A Comparative Display of the Different Opinions of the
Most Distinguished British Writers on the Subject of the
French Revolution. ( 1 793.)
Philosophy and Political Economy. (1903.)
WILLIAM ARCHIBALD DUNNING.
A History of Political Theories from Luther to Montes-
A History of the Philosophy of History. (1843.)
Memoirs of Thomas Holcroft. (1816.)
ARTHUR CUSHMAN M'GIFFERT.
Protestant Thought Before Kant. (1911.)
Burke. (In the English Men of Letters series.)
J. H. OVERTON.
The Evangelical Revival in the Eighteenth Century.
Classical Moralists. (1909.)
Modern Classical Philosophers. (1908.)
JEAN JACQUES ROUSSEAU.
A History of English Thought in the Eighteenth Century.
Works of Holcroft. 1
1780. Alwyn; or, The Gentleman Comedian.
1792. Anna St. Ives.
1794. (Latter part in 1797), Hugh Trevor.
1805. Memoirs of Brian Perdue.
Some other works, mentioned in this discussion :
1795. A Narrative of Facts Relating to a Prosecution for High
Treason: Including an Address to the Jury which the Court
Refused to Hear.
1795. A Letter to the Right Hon. William Wyndham on the
Intemperance and Dangerous Tendency of his Public Con-
1804. Travels from Hamburg, through Westphalia, Holland,
and the Netherlands, to Paris.
1 The list of Holcroft's writings is too long to give in complete
1805-1806. The Theatrical Recorder.
1810. Memoirs of Thomas Holer oft written by himself and
Continued to the Time of his Death by William Hazlitt.
Works on Holcroft.
"A friend of a Manufacturer. "
A Letter, not in Answer to, but Induced by a Late Publica-
tion of Thomas Holcroft, on the Subject of Political In-
temperance, Endeavouring to Illustrate its Dangerous Effects
on the Commercial Part of the Kingdom; and the Material
Difference Between Theory and Practise. Addressed to
Every Workman in England and Every Man who Keeps
C. KEGAN PAUL.
William Godwin, His Friends and Contemporaries.
LETTERS OF CHARLES LAMB.
(Ed. A. Aenger, 1888.)
Recollections of a Literary Life. (1852.)
Account of the English Stage.
The Georgian Era. (1834.)
Article on Holcroft in the Diet. Nat. Biog.
Works considered in this discussion:
1793. Political Justice.
1794. Caleb Williams, or Things As They Are.
1799. St. Leon.
1805. Fleetwood, or, The New Man of Feeling.
Works of Reference:
William Godwin, His Friends and Contemporaries. C.
KEGAN PAUL. (Pub. London, 1876.)
William Godwin's Romance. Inaugural Dissertation zur
Erlangung der Doktorwurde, Leizig, 1906. JOHANNES
On the English Novel. WILLIAM HAZLITT.
William Godwin. (In Biographical and Historical Essays.)
THOMAS DE QUINCEY.
William Godwin's Novels. (In Studies of a Biographer.)
On St. Leon and Mandeville. PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY.
Complete Works of Shelley. Edited by BUXTON FORMAN, London,
List of Shelley's works giving his political opinions.
Poems (including prefaces) :
The Revolt of Islam.
Masque of Anarchy.
Swellfoot the Tyrant.
Ode to the Assertors of Liberty, and other short poems.
An Address to the Irish People. (1812.)
Proposals for an Association. (1812.)
Declaration of Rights. (1812.)
A Letter to Lord Ellenborough. (1812.)
An Address to the People on the Death of the Princess Char-
A Proposal for Putting Reform to the Vote. (1817.)
A System of Government by Juries.
Fragment on Reform.
Works on Shelley:
EDWARD JOHN TRELAWNEY.
Records of Shelley, Byron, and the Author. (1887.)
The Life of Percy Bysshe Shelley. ( 1 886. )
ALBERT ELMER HANCOCK.
English Poets and the French Revolution. (1899.)
Dictionary of National Biography.
Prof. WALTER RALEIGH, The English Novel.
Prof. WILBUR L. CROSS, Development of the English Novel.
CHARLES KEGAN PAUL, William Godwin, His Friends and Con-
Sir WALTER SCOTT, Life of Bage, prefaced to Ballantyne's Novelists
HUTTON. History of Derby.
Robert Bage's Works:
Mount Henneth. (1781.)
Barham Downs. (1784.)
The Fair Syrian. (1787.)
James Wallace. (1788.)
Man As He Is. (1792.)
Man As He Is Not. (1796.)
Mrs. Inchbald's novels:
A Simple Story.
Nature and Art.
(Edited 1880, with prefatory memoir by WILLIAM BELL
Memoirs of Mrs. Inchbald. (1833.)
CECILIA LUCY BRIGHTWELL.
Memoirs of the Life of Amelia Opie. (1843.)
ANNE KATHERINE EL WOOD.
Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England. (1843.)
FRANCES ANNE KEMBLE.
Record of a Girlhood. (1878.)
Account of the English Stage from 1660 to 1830.
Mrs. Elizabeth Inchbald, eine Vergessene Englische Buhnen-
dichterin und Romanschriftstellerin. Berlin, 1910. (Gives
Accounts of Mrs. Inchbald in the Dictionary of National
Biography, Chambers' s Encyclopedia, and Walter Raleigh,
The English Novel.
Novels by Amelia Opie:
The Father and Daughter. (1801.)
Simple Tales. (1806.)
Tales of Real Life. (1813.)
Valentine's Eve. (1816.)
New Tales. (1818.)
Tales of the Heart. ( 1 820.)
Illustrations of Lying. (1845.)
Works of Reference:
CECILIA LUCY BRIGHTWELL.
Memorials of the Life of Amelia Opie. (1854.)
Lady A. I. T. RITCHIE (Miss THACKERAY).
Book of Sibyls. (1883.)
Mrs. JOHN TAYLOR.
Account of Mrs. Opie, in The Cabinet. (1807.)
Accounts of Mrs. Opie, in the Dictionary of National Biog-
raphy, Chamber s's Encyclopedia, and Raleigh, The English
Charlotte Smith's Novels:
Emmeline, or, The Orphan of the Castle. (1788.)
The Old Manor House. (1793.)
Ethelinde, or, The Recluse of the Lake. (1789.)
The Banished Man. (1794.)
The Young Philosopher, Nature his Law and God His Guide.
The Solitary Wanderer. (1799.)
Bibliography 3 2 9
ANNA KATHERINE EL WOOD.
Memoirs of the Literary Ladies of England. (1843.)
Sir EGERTON BRYDGES.
Censuria Liter aria. (1815.)
Sir WALTER SCOTT.
Biography of Charlotte Smith. (In his Miscellaneous
Prose Works, vol. i.)
LADY CAROLINE LAMB
Novels by Lady Caroline Lamb:
Graham Hamilton. (1822.)
Ada Reis. (1823.)
Mrs. K. B. THOMPSON.
Queens of Society.
Biographical Sketch, in New Monthly Magazine, July,
Accounts in Chambers' s Encyclopedia, and the Dictionary of
Memoirs of the Author of "A Vindication of the Rights of
A Defence of the Character and Conduct of the Late Mary
Wottstonecraft Godwin, in a Series of Letters to a Lady.
Life of Fuseli.
ANNA KATHERINE EL WOOD.
Memoirs of the Literary Ladies in England from the Com-
mencement of the Last Century. (1843.)
CHARLES KEGAN PAUL.
William Godwin, His Friends and Contemporaries. (1876.)
Mary Wollstonecraft: A Prefatory Memoir. (1879.)
Le Feminisms au X Vlllme Siecle. (Grand Revue. Paris,
EMMA RAUSCHENBUSCH CLOUGH.
Mary Wollstonecraft and the Rights of Woman.
G. R. STIRLING TAYLOR.
Mary Wollstonecraft: A Study in Economics and Romance.
Articles on Mary Wollstonecraft in the Dictionary of National
Biography and in Chambers's Encyclopedia of English
Works of Mary Wollstonecraft:
Thoughts on the Education of Daughters. With Reflections on
Female Conduct. Added, Fenelon, Archbishop of Cam-
brat's "Instructions to Governesses and an Address to
Original Stories from Real Life, with Considerations Calcu-
lated to Regulate the Affections. (1788, 1791, and third
edition illustrated by BLAKE, 1796.)
Mary, A Fiction. (1790.)
Translation of Salzmann's Elementarbuch, illustrated by
A Vindication of the Rights of Men, in a Letter to the Right
Honourable Edmund Burke. (1790.)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman. (1792.)
A Historical and Moral View of the Origin and Progress of the
French Revolution, and the Effect it has Produced in Europe.
Letters Written in Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. (1796.)
Posthumous Works. (1798.)
Maria, or, The Wrongs of Woman.
First Book of a Series of Lessons for Children.
Letters on the French Nation.
Letters on the Management of Infants.
Letters to Mr. Johnson.
The Cave of Fancy: A Tale.
On Poetry and our Relish for the Beauties of Nature.
Hints, chiefly Designed to have been Incorporated in the
Second Part of "A Vindication of the Rights of Woman."
Letters to Gilbert Imlay. (1879.)
BIBLIOGRAPHY TO CHAPTER IX
SECTION i. POETRY.
La Revolution Franchise et les Poetes Anglais, 1789-1809.
Studies in Literature, 1789-1877. (Ninth ed., 1906.)
The French Revolution and English Literature. (N. Y., 1897.)
ALBERT ELMER HANCOCK.
The French Revolution and the English Poets. (N. Y., 1899.)
SECTION 2. THE DRAMA.
The English Stage from 1660 to 1830. (Volumes 6, 7, and 9.)
Memoirs of the Late Thomas Holer oft. (1816.)
The Theatrical Recorder. (1805-1806.)
Adelaide de Narbonne 184
Amicable Quixote 183
Analytical Review 238
Serious Proposal 233
Bage, Robert v, 161-180, 296, 299, 302
Barham Downs 165
Fair Syrian 165 n.
Hermsprong, or Man As He Is Not 168-172, 202
James Wallace 165
Man As He Is 167 f.
Blake 59, 271-274
Blue Stocking Hall 265-269
Brown, Charles Brocken 108, 185
Arthur Mervin 185
Strange Story 100
Bunyan 52, 87
Burke 27, 43,44, 157, 187
Reflections on the Revolution in France 28, 44, 245-246
Byron 123, 227-230, 268, 281, 291
Chapone, Hester 235
Coleridge 58, 88, 165, 276-280
Colman, the Younger 94
Iron Chest 94, 288
Condorcet 236, 237
Craftsman's Magazine 233, 237
Critical Review 238
Declaration of Rights 17, 18
Deism 40, 41, 89, 196
De Quincey 98
Diderot 145, 146
Edward and Sophia 156
Encyclopaedists 30, 40
Fair Methodist 154
Fawcett, Joseph 88, 93
Fenwick, Eliza 225
Fordyce 235, 244
Fox, Charles James 73 n., 88, 181, 204
Fuseli 244, 247
Gentleman's Magazine 233, 234
Godwin, William, 43, 49, 50, 58, 59, 68, 86-119, I22 , I2 5 *37f
140, 177, 180, 185-186, 195-198, 207, 210, 223, 227, 230, 244,
273, 287, 294, 298, 302
Caleb Williams, 82,92-99, 103, 104, ijo, \y$ t 116, 202, 223,
Deloraine 112-113, 122, 125, 133
Life of Mary Wollstonecraft 140, 145
PoliticalJustice v, 43, 84, 89, 90, 91, 114, 116, 119
St. Leon 99-103, 122, 125, 258
Gregory, Dr. :
Legacy to his Daughters 235
Hanaway, Mary 222
Elinor, or The World As It Is .. 222
Hardy, Thomas 55. 57, 2O 3
Hayes, Mary 223
Memoirs of Emma Courtney 223
Hazlitt 50, 60, 69, 98
Memoirs of Holcroft 45 ff., 54, 71
Henrietta, Princess Royal of England 189
Hobbes 34,35, 146
Holbach 175, 224
Holcroft, v, 29, 49-85, 88-91, 102, 177, 194, 195, 197, 224, 225,
244, 273, 285-287, 293, 297, 301
Anna St. Ives 49, 59, 61-70, 84, 137, 225
Hugh Trevor 58, 59, 70-81, 139, 202
Memoirs of Brian Perdue 82-84
Howard 204, 289
Hume 37,38, 137, 146, 148, 155, 156, 185
Hunt, Leigh 271, 282
Hutton 161, 163, 166
/'// Consider of It 157
Illuminati 151, 186
Inchbald 98, 191-202, 257, 288, 299, 303
A Simple Story 198-199
Dramas 288 f .
Nature and Art 199-202
Interesting Memoirs of Marie Antoinette 188
Johnson, Joseph 203, 243, 244, 273
Herman of Unna 183
33 6 Index
Lamb, Lady Caroline 227-230
Ada Reis 230
Last Man 156
Empire of the Nairs 259
Levellers 33, 36, 42
Locke 36, 41, 43, 45, 137
Lucas 300, 303
Infernal Quixote 73, 144-154
Slavery, or The Times 187
Magic of Wealth 157
Man in the Moon 181, 182
Man Superior to Woman 234
What Has Been 225
Memoirs of a Female Philosopher 155
Memoirs of a Old Wig 155
Methodism 39, 40, 71, 73, 87 n., 149, 149, 154, 155, 186, 205
Negro Equalled by Few Europeans 188
Opie, Mrs. Amelia Alderson, 195, 196, 203-213, 222, 299
Adelina Mowbray 208-210, 285
Valentine's Eve 210-212
Oronooko 169, 186, 187
Paine 43, 59, 89, 132, 136, 137, 180, 224, 244, 273
Plumptre 204, 226
Price 43, 182, 244
Priestley 43, 90, 155
Purity of Heart, or Woman As She Should Be 229
Quakers 151, 167, 172 n., 204, 205, 206
Robert and Adela 260-265
Rousseau, 18, 30, 40, 41, 84, 104, 117, 137, 148, 180, 186, 217, 224,
230, 236, 262, 281
Scott, Sir Walter 161, 172, 175, 176, 179, 204
Shelley, Mary Wollstonecraft 227, 251
Shelley, Percy Bysshe , n, 12, 91, 120-133, 134, 177, 227, 294, 298,
Declaration of Rights 128-129
Marlow Pamphlets 130-131
St.Irvyne 100, 121, 122, 125
Zastrozzi 121, 125
Sheridan 88, 290
Smith, Charlotte Turner 213-222
Society for Constitutional Information 28, 54, 55, 89, 147
Sophia, a Gentlewoman 234
Southey 59, 204, 279-280
Spirit of the Book 189
St. Simon 206
Systemedela Nature 89, 163
Took, Home 55, 57, 203
Voltaire 137, 145, 146, 169, 217
Walker, George 300, 303
The Vagabond 135-144
Advantages of Education 259
Wollstonecraft, Mary, 90, 100, 105, 114, 140, 141, 142, 145, 162,
172, 186, 197, 208-210, 224-227, 231-258, 264, 273, 297, 303
Vindication of the Rights of Women, 145, 183, 237-239,
260, 262, 267, 268
Maria, or the Wrongs of Women 202, 220, 240, 254-258
Cave of Fancy 251-254
Mary, A Fiction 251-253
Wordsworth 59, 104, 204, 271, 274-276
The French revolution and